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Dolores objects to increase in logging traffic into town

Dolores officials are concerned about increased logging truck traffic entering town from Dunlap Hill – seen on left side of photo – and onto 11th Street. (Courtesy photo)
Town officials urge dispersed routes to reduce impacts

The town of Dolores has drafted objections related to increased logging truck traffic from a forest project planned on San Juan National Forest land north of town.

The town is studying the possibility of truck traffic restrictions on 11th Street between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to reduce noise and traffic impacts for residents.

The Salter Vegetation Management Project will involve commercial timber harvesting of ponderosa pine over the next 10 years.

Truck routes for hauling away timber in the Boggy Draw and House Creek areas are expected be along to County Road 31, down Dunlap Hill, and onto 11th Street in Dolores and onto Colorado Highway 145.

Logging to thin out the House Creek area is considered a priority because of the density of the forest and its susceptibility to large wildfires, said Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla. Work is expected to begin in 2023. Logging in the Boggy Draw area, which overlaps popular recreation trails, is not planned until 2028 at this time.

Based on similar projects in the forest, officials expect an average of nine loaded logging trucks going through the town of Dolores per day during the harvest season. The estimated traffic is an average; on some days, there will be no trucks, on others, there could be more than nine per day.

In a draft objection notice, Dolores Town Manager Ken Charles and board member Jen Stark urge forest officials to “aid in the redistribution of commercial hauling traffic” from the logging project to reduce the use of 11th Street in town.

“We strongly urge the Dolores District Office to discover and pursue ... the use of alternative routes,” the draft notice says.

Town officials were informed that about 75% of the total commercial hauling traffic would use the County Road 31 and 11th Street route.

“This is a high volume of traffic over a long period of time, and 11th Street is adjacent to critical population areas,” the draft objection says.

The town requested the Dolores District work to reduce the percentage of logging traffic into Dolores to under 50%.

Dolores Town Board member Sheila Wheeler said the additional traffic is a safety hazard and the noise caused by truckers’ use of engine compression braking (often referred to as Jake brakes) on the steep hill coming into town would create a public nuisance.

“Jake brakes reverberate through the entire town. I don’t think the citizens should have to bear that burden for years and years – it impacts quality of life,” she said in an interview. “There are other routes available that would help the citizens of the town.”

Eleventh Street passes by a main route to the Dolores school campus, Wheeler said, and disruption from logging traffic could have a negative impact for tourists staying at short-term rentals.

Town officials have asked forest officials to consider directing logging trucks to alternative routes.

One alternative route could be the Cottonwood Road (Forest Road 532) to the northeast, which accesses the West Fork Road (County Road 38) and Colorado Highway 145.

Another is the Bradfield Bridge route (forest roads 514, 521) toward the west that provides access to U.S. Highway 491.

Padilla said the national forest does not have authority to regulate truck traffic beyond national forest jurisdiction, such as on County Road 31 and 11th Street.

Town officials are seeking a compromise that would reduce truck traffic into town, and indicated it could restrict truck traffic access onto 11th Street between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. as a bargaining tool.

“We are seeking a way to find something in the middle,” Stark said during a July 26 meeting between the town and forest officials.

Padilla said if logging trucks have to take longer routes it could make project contracts less desirable for timber companies because of the additional hauling expense.

On the issue of Jake brakes, the town has an ordinance requiring mufflers to prevent excessive or unusual noise, and that no exhaust system shall be equipped with a cut-off, bypass or similar device.

Prohibiting use of Jake brakes is not reasonable, said Dolores Town Manager Ken Charles, because they are required by truckers to safely drive down the steep hill into town.

To mitigate Jake brake noise pollution, the town is seeking to enforce the muffler requirement, and reduce the speed limits on Dunlap Hill.

The Salter Vegetation Project has been given preliminary approval by Padilla. An objection period ends Friday. Concerns are reviewed and potential mitigation measures are considered for the plan before a final decision is made.