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Stimulus funding to help with forest work

Nearly $10 million of federal stimulus funding will help the Idaho Panhandle National Forests address a multi-year backlog of road repairs and bridge work.

The grants will fix or obliterate eroding roads and update antiquated wooden bridges, and they will help maintain public access to popular hunting, picnicking and huckleberry-foraging areas, Forest Service officials said.

“We’ve got the same concerns that the rest of the nation does with infrastructure that’s decades old,” said Gail West, forest spokeswoman.

Many of the road and bridges on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests were for built for timber sales. Years of heavy use and harsh weather have taken their toll.

The forest’s annual road budget is $1.6 million. “This is going to allow us to catch up on a huge backlog of deferred maintenance,” said Jim Gebhardt, forest engineer.

The projects include:

• $6.7 million for Bonner County. To protect water quality and fish habitat, nearly 50 miles of forest roads will be obliterated. Other roads will be improved and rerouted away from creeks. Two bridges will be replaced.

• $2.4 million for Shoshone County. Up to 25 bridges will be repaired to continue access to popular recreational areas. Signs and barriers will go up to prevent illegal, off-road travel.

• $530,000 for bridge repairs, roadwork and stream restoration in Kootenai County. Potter Creek Bridge – which leads to hunting grounds, a rental cabin and loop-drive east of Coeur d’Alene – is part of the work plan.

Contractors interested in bidding on projects should visit

The grant is part of $228 million in federal money flowing into national forests, including the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.

A grant figure for roadwork in the Colville wasn’t available on Thursday, but the forest will receive a portion of $9 million for roadwork allocated to national forests in Oregon and Washington.