Tree removal rescheduled for Feb. 1
A dead tree will be removed Thursday, Feb. 1, closing a portion of Highway 35 south of Woods Bay for about two hours, from 10 a.m.-noon. The road closure was originally slated for Monday.
Flathead Electric Cooperative (FEC), the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are teaming up to remove the tree, located near Fishing Rock Lane. This narrow area of MT 35 will be closed to traffic while work is underway, so travelers are advised to seek alternate routes. The nearby Bear Dance Trail, USFS Trail #76, will also be closed in both directions.
Two cranes and multiple crews will be deployed to help remove the tree, which is more than 110 feet tall and located on the east side of the road at approximately mile marker 23. The tree has been dead for many years and has significant rot around its base. Highway officials expect it to fall across the highway unless it’s removed. F
Flathead Electric officials say it could also fall onto power lines on the west side of the road.
According to Amanda Opp, FEC Integrated Services Manager, “The tree’s location above MT 35 makes it extremely difficult to safely remove. However, if it were to fall, the resulting power outage would likely be prolonged, because of the limited access we have to bring in new power poles and re-string wire.”
“Being proactive is the right thing to do for the public, and greatly decreases the risk of the tree falling into the wires and sparking a wildfire,” she added in a press release.
The tree is home to an unoccupied osprey nest and multiple biologists from federal and state agencies were consulted about the removal plan.
“From the start, we were sensitive to the osprey nest,” writes Opp. Biologists from state and federal agencies were contacted “to ensure there were no nesting osprey in the tree, and that if the tree was removed, there would be suitable options in the area for any osprey that may return in the spring.” Crews also plan to inspect the nest after the tree is felled.
According to Opp, a brief power outage may occur during the road closure, which is weather dependent. In case of high winds or fresh snow, the removal could be rescheduled.
Motorists can stay informed about the road status by visiting 511mt.net or downloading the MDT 511 app on their phone. Call Joan Redeen at 406-396-1978 with any questions or comments.