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Major projects at Wayne delayed, but not scrapped

PEDRO -- While the U. S. Forest Service battles one of the worst fire seasons in history, small construction projects in Wayne National Forest's Lake Vesuvius remain on schedule, but major projects have been delayed.

"All the big projects are on hold because of the fires out West," said Mike Freidhof, assistant ranger for the Ironton District. "It is a national priority.

"Over the last couple of years, the Forest Service and the Park Service have beefed up the number of fire fighters," he said. "But, in a season like this they need all the help they can get."

More than 6.2 million acres of forests have burned this year. Nearly 800,000 acres are burning right now, said Ken Arbogast, public affairs officer for the Wayne National Forest.

Because the severe fire season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service expects a budget shortfall of more than $750 million. Projects are being postponed throughout the country.

Of the projects still proceeding, structure improvements to the dam are almost completed. They are currently pouring concrete on the spillway and the entire project should be done by the middle of September, Freidhof said.

The dam reinforcement is finished and the sod has taken hold and is growing well. T-C Inc., from Indianapolis, Ind., worked on the $3.7 million project.

After the dam project, they will begin working on expanding the size of the boat ramp. They are waiting on permits for the month-long project that should also begin mid-September.

"It will be a much more usable size and make flow of traffic better for everybody," Freidhof said

Projects on hold include construction of a boardwalk from the boat ramp to the dam, improving restrooms at the Timber Ridge Lake, and maintenance of ATV and horse trails.

Drained in January of 2001, Lake Vesuvius was scheduled to be refilled this fall, but probably won't begin until December or later, he said.

Currently, four men from the Ironton district are battling the Biscuit fire

in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest. The western part of the country is under a Level Five alert, the highest possible.

All the men should return after Labor Day but more men may be sent if necessary, he said.

"It is a very tiring and stressful job," he said.

"You can only work that way for so long before you are mentally and physically exhausted."

Freidhof said he spoke with one of the men and he reported that they are making progress.

Arbogast said that this region's fire season is about to begin. The state imposes a fire ban from October to January during daylight hours to prevent the same problems. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune