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Forest roads, bridges to be repaired

WASHINGTON – National forest roads and bridges in 31 states will get long-needed repairs under an economic stimulus spending plan announced by the Obama administration.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that $228 million in economic stimulus money will be used for road maintenance and decommissioning and watershed restoration in dozens of national forests.

A total of 106 projects in 31 states will be paid for as part of the $1.15 billion in economic stimulus funding awarded to the Forest Service, Vilsack said, adding that the projects should improve access to forest lands, boost public health and safety and preserve natural resources throughout the country.

“The rehabilitation of roads will improve water quality by reducing sediments in nearby streams and help to restore natural resources and habitats for fish in areas impacted by deterioration and erosion of road surfaces,” he said.

The projects announced Tuesday comprise a small fraction of the estimated $10 billion road maintenance backlog the agency faces.

Rep. Norm Dicks. D-Wash., chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Forest Service, called the projects wise investments and good stewardship.

A spokesman for Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, also hailed the announcement. Idaho will get $44 million under the plan, by far the largest amount for any state. Oregon is next with $32 million. Montana receives $31.5 million. Washington gets $18.6 million.

“We hope this helps put Idahoans back to work in communities hard hit by the economic recession, and that the improvements made to Forest Service roads make it easier to harvest timber from Idaho forests and will improve access for hunting and recreation,” said John Foster, a spokesman for Minnick.

Minnick voted against the stimulus plan, one of the few Democrats to do so.


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