Emergency repair funds are on their way for the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road, a major tourist attraction in northeast Oregon that supports local economies in Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties.
Just after the washout occurred on the popular road, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) alerted U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood to the scope of the economic challenges posed to the region. Today, DOT will announce $3.2 million in quick relief emergency funds for Oregon. The road was washed out in several places during heavy rains about two and a half weeks ago.
That money will be used to address repairs on U.S. Forest Service Road 39 in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest -- commonly known as the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road, an essential part of the popular Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.
"I know how important the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road is to the economies of northeast Oregon," Rep. Walden said. "I thank Secretary LaHood for his fast response and urge the department to get boots on the ground just as quickly to get the road back in shape again."
Following the wash-out of the road, Rep. Walden appealed to the U.S. Forest Service and DOT to repair the road quickly as the peak sightseeing season of the summer approaches. He also flew over the damaged road before a town meeting in Richland in Baker County on June 13.
Earlier today Walden spoke with DOT Deputy Secretary John Sporcari to receive an update on the application for the emergency funds.
"I know how difficult the current economic conditions are, especially in rural Oregon," Rep. Walden said. "And I know that this couldn't have come at a worse time for businesses and employees in the area that count on a productive tourism season."
"Securing the funds is only half the battle," Walden said. "I will continue to work closely with the Forest Service and DOT to make sure work is progressing as fast as possible."
The Wallowa Mountain Loop Road, a major component of the Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway, is a major tourist attraction and economic engine during the spring and summer months for Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties.
The Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce estimated that the closure of the road would cause an economic impact of $1.88 million to Wallowa County alone.
According to the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association, the average visitor spends between $150 and $200 per day per travel party when visiting the Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway.
Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.