The state is planning to open Highway 20 across the North Cascades as early as noon this Sunday after being closed due to fire danger, according to an announcement.
Coordinated evaluations by officials with Great Basin Incident Management Team 4, state Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and National Park Service (NPS) have determined State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, may open as soon as Sunday, Aug. 30.
Fire officials with the Great Basin Incident Management Team 4 said Friday that current fire behavior and predicted wet weather no longer necessitate the closure of SR 20. Rains predicted for the next week will slow the fire down enough to allow for access through the park.
WSDOT tentatively plans to reopen SR 20, the North Cascades Highway, at noon Sunday, Aug. 30. Maintenance crews need to clear the roadway and drainage ditches of debris and trees downed by the fire. Geotechnical crews need to check the burned slopes for stability.
“Safety is always our top priority,” said Assistant Regional Administrator for Maintenance Dave McCormick. “Sunday morning we will need to re-evaluate the slopes to see if this weekend’s rains brought more debris onto the road.”
Seattle City Light will continue to assess damage to infrastructure such as power lines and towers. Temporary, intermittent closures of SR 20 may be necessary for helicopter and heavy equipment work to place and install materials.
NPS will bring in a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to assess fire impacts to the park. The BAER team will initially focus on hazard trees burned or weakened by the fire near campgrounds and along roads and interpretive trails in high visitor use areas. Hazard trees might pose a danger if they fall or shift. The visitor center, Colonial, Goodell, and Gorge campgrounds will open with SR 20. Newhalem Campground will remain closed until next spring.
"Like our partners and stakeholders, the National Park Service wants to have the road open as soon as it is safe to do so," said North Cascades National Park Service Complex Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich. "We appreciate everyone's hard work towards that goal and look forward to having visitors return to the park."
Fire activity closed the road Aug. 19, after winds, high temperatures, and low humidity drove the lightning-caused Goodell Fire east and across the road. Newhalem, Diablo, Ross Lake Resort, the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and all campgrounds were evacuated.
There are multiple fires still active in the park and conditions can change rapidly.
Seattle City Light photo