Plenty of work remains after Rainier flooding

The good news is that the damage estimate following the historic November 2006 flood at Mount Rainier National Park has been lowered to $27.9 million.

There is, however, an estimated $3.7 million to $7.9 million of work remaining.

Those are some of the figures in a newly released report updating the status of the park's efforts to recover from the flood.

"We've made a tremendous amount of progress. That includes not only the park staff, but the volunteers, concessionaires, contractors and everyone else who made it happen," said acting superintendent Randy King as he talked about the report.

Indeed, a lot has happened since 17.9 inches of rain fell in 36 hours over Nov. 6-7, 2006.

Floods and landslides in all four corners of the park forced an unprecedented six-month closure. But there's still plenty of work to be done.

Among major decisions yet to be made are the future of the Carbon River Corridor and whether Sunshine Point can be reopened as a campground or picnic area.

Park crews and volunteers will concentrate on two major trail repair projects this season -- Glacier Basin and Carbon Glacier.

King said park staff is still developing alternatives for improving access along the Carbon River Road.

Most preliminary options eliminate road access to Ipsut Creek Campground.

He said he hopes the park can identify its preferred alternative by July, with public meetings to follow in August and September.

The goal, he said, would be to make a final decision by the end of the year so work could start next year.

The future use of Sunshine Point will depend on whether methods can be developed to protect the area from future flood damage.

Almost 5 acres of the campground washed away in 2006, forcing the closure of the park's only year-round campground.

King said an engineering firm working with the park is recommending using engineered logjams to reduce the energy of the river during flood events.

"If we can protect (the area), we might look at reopening the campground. That would be my goal," King said. "But can we protect that area so we make it a good investment for the taxpayer?"

The impact of the flood damage went far beyond washed-out bridges, plugged culverts and trail damage.

This unattributed quote from a park staffer in the report best describes the initial effect of the flood: "It was by far the most emotional experience of my life. I evacuated the park with the other employees and broke into tears when I arrived home. Mother Nature had brought me to my knees only to weep in her bittersweet majesty."

Similar emotions ran deep among other park staff and visitors. It drove them to work many hours of overtime to reopen the park and to give up their weekends to help rebuild the park.

The report "is really a celebration of progress, of how far we've come since a couple of years ago," King said of those efforts.