By Rob Everingham
"This is plan B," Highway 234 Advisory Committee Facilitator Craig Erickson said of the proposed and possible fence in Beaver Creek Park.
The Highway 234 Advisory Committee met last night in the Hill County Courthouse Annex to discuss and propose different plans.
According to Erickson, the main goal of the committee at this point is to seek a waiver to the fence. This would entail going in and changing the Montana law that says that if there are cattle grazing along a state
road there must be a fence.
Erickson started the meeting by giving a report on the liability of not having a fence. He spoke with several attorneys with the state of Montana, who all said the party that would be found liable would greatly depend on the case.
Erickson also said he had met with local state officials who were optimistic about getting a waiver in the next session.
"They felt good that it could happen," Erickson said.
The committee still has not yet adopted one plan to give to the Hill County Commissioners, but four different plans were proposed last night.
Con Nystrom and the cattle raisers who are on the committee proposed the first plan. Nystrom's plan would entail placing a standard type fence along the roadway. It would be a four-wire, barbed wire fence about 12 feet off the road and would run the length of the new construction, which is from the start of the park to the Taylor Road.
The fence would keep the cattle off the road, there would be access through cattle guards and gates, Nystrom said. The plan would also see the least amount of acreage reduction for livestock, and the maintenance would be economical as well as easy access.
Committee member Lou Hagener also proposed a plan that would cross fence the park. It would take about three miles of fence. There would be no fence along the road, the park would just be split into three areas and they would adjust the grazing program for livestock.
However, this plan would still require a waiver from the state, Hagener said.
"There would be the same number, but a different strategy with the livestock," Hagener said.
The next proposal was by Kent Gilge and Mel Gomke.
This plan would have an "expanded corridor." The fence would enclose the road, creek and campsites so no livestock could access these areas. In places were the fence would have to be close to the road. Gomke proposed the possibility of a wooden or jack fence.
This plan would cut the number of cattle guards and fencing down by more than half of what would be needed if the fence ran beside the road.
Gilge said that if the recreational areas of the park were fenced and cattle could not access them, there would be the possibility of extending the time the cattle graze in the park.
The final proposal that was brought before the committee was one by the fencing subcommittee.
Hagener also proposed the subcommittee's plan. This plan entailed a combination of the plans proposed by Nystrom and Gomke. It would, in some places, be next to the road, while in other places, it would limit livestock accessibility to recreational areas. This plan would also see the development of off-stream watering sites, including the possibility of building reservoirs or ponds.
The committee heard the four plans as well as from Rick Rust of the Montana Department of Transportation. Rust said he was unsure if the MDT could build the fence off the roadway. He was unsure of liability issues with having people work off the right-of-way corridor to fence. Rust also said the project cost has risen to about $5.7 million.
"This is still way under for this type of project," Rust said.
Normally a road project costs $800,000 per mile, Rust said, with this project costing $570,000 per mile. The biggest increase in the project has been the addition of replacing all the bridges along the road.
After a safety rating was completed on the bridges, it was determined that the bridges would have to be replaced. Also, Rust said, as far as handicap accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to parks.
The Highway 234 Advisory Committee will meet again on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Hill County Courthouse Annex.
This again will be a working meeting with the committee trying to come up with one proposal to give to the Hill County Commissioners. The committee has set a deadline of mid-March to get the proposal done so that Dan Norderud of Peccia & Associates of Helena can start his environmental assessment.