Gorge Commission reviews proposed road standards

The Gorge Commission subcommittee charged with reviewing scenic resources sections of the Management Plan is recommending a new standard that would give transportation agencies more flexibility for road projects on the National Scenic Area’s major highways.

Meeting in White Salmon on May 20, the Scenic Resources Committee decided that projects on roads designated as Key Viewing Areas (KVAs) should blend in, rather than be visually subordinate, with the surrounding landscape.

The next Scenic Resources Committee meeting, open to the public, is scheduled from 3-8 p.m. Thursday at the White Salmon Library, located in the Town and Country Plaza. The new “harmonious” standard would require development on the KVA highways, which include Interstate 84, Washington State Route 14 and the Historic Columbia River Highway, to “borrow elements from the landscape setting as much as possible.”

Over the past decade, Gorge planners and road engineers have found it difficult to meet the standards that require projects not to dominate the landscape.

“Highway or parks departments and agencies that implement the National Scenic Area Act have had difficulty in the past resolving differences about how roadway projects — such as bridges, rockfall protection structures and parking areas — could meet standards that require projects to be subordinate to the landscape,” said Brian Litt, a senior planner with the Gorge Commission.

The proposed standard would require highway projects to fit into the Gorge landscape, and would include specific guidelines for designing projects.

“This approach would replace visual subordinance and retention with a standard that meets practical needs of our main transportation corridors while still requiring solutions that protect scenic quality,” Litt said.

“This policy would need to be implemented through detailed criteria, such as specifying designs and construction materials, that would conform to the harmonious standard for highway improvements.”

“I like the direction you’re going with this; it’s a positive step,” June Carlson, area manager for the Metro East section of ODOT’s Region One, told the Committee.

Chuck Ruhsenberger, area engineer for WSDOT’s Columbia Gorge Area Engineering Office, told the Committee he “tentatively endorses” the proposed change.

“This approach provides the flexibility called for by our partners who have struggled to meet the current guidelines for some projects very close to Key Viewing Areas,” Litt said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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