YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - Yellowstone National Park is getting some high-level attention on Friday, July 8, 2022. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is in the park to talk about the effort to repair roads and other infrastructure damaged by record floods in June.
Both the north and south loops through the park are now open to traffic, but the road from Roosevelt Junction to Silver Gate and Cooke City remains closed. That means the popular Lamar Valley, renowned for its great animal sightings remains off-limits to visitors. That's because of this damage to the road near Trout Lake. New videos of the damage were recently provided by the Park Service that shows the damage on that route is a large section of the road near the Soda Butte picnic area.
The other part of the park that sustained heavy damage is the road from the small gateway community of Gardiner up to park headquarters at Mammoth. In some new information, MTN received confirmation from a park official that no work is currently underway on that road. It's because engineers are still assessing the damage and devising a plan for repairs or re-routing the road.
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said on Friday morning that Old Gardiner Road is being paved and will be open before winter as a temporary access road. He estimates 3-5 years to complete work on a permanent road replacement.
In the meantime, work is underway on Old Gardiner Road, as shown in a new photo. That road, a former stagecoach road, is being upgraded to accommodate a limited amount of traffic into the park. It is unclear when that work will be finished, and who will be allowed to use the road.
A major issue for Haaland is paying for repairs in Yellowstone and infrastructure work at other popular national parks. Montana US Senator Steve Daines pushed through National parks infrastructure funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That totals about $900 million a year. Plus, the bi-partisan infrastructure law, which Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester played a key role in creating, included $1.7 billion for transportation infrastructure. But, altogether, it's still not enough.
Testifying before the House appropriations committee, John Garder, the director of budget and appropriations for the National Park Conservation Alliance, said repairs at Yellowstone alone could total more than a billion dollars.
On Friday, Sholly said officials are still working on cost estimates. He said the park will have at least 4 different cost estimates - one is the cheapest, one would be the best alignment of the road, another looking at the environmental impacts and finally, one that juggles costs with environmental concerns and placement of the road to prevent it washing out again.
There are emergency appropriations from the Interior and Transportation departments to pay for temporary road repairs in the park, but a permanent solution is a much larger job that will take a lot of time, perhaps years, to complete.