NASELLE — Work continues this week to clear a landslide that closed State Route 4 on Jan. 23. In the meantime, some SR4 businesses are seeing big drops in business as travelers between Interstate 5 and the coast are diverted highways 30 and 26 on the Oregon side of the Columbia.

A state contractor continued over the weekend clearing trees, rocks and soil from the slide near milepost 25.5 on the east side of KM Mountain. Early this week, engineering geologists with the Washington State Department of Transportation will drill to collect rock core samples to assess the slide and help develop a long-term fix, WSDOT said in a Jan. 31 press release. While a crew continues cleanup efforts, a temporary barrier will be installed to provide a safe workplace for crews, and a travel lane for traffic, once it’s safe to return travel through the area, the agency said.

Business impacts

While for most travelers the Grays River and Naselle Valleys are not destinations like the Long Beach Peninsula, they are stopover points for travelers passing through to purchase provisions, enjoy meals and refuel their vehicles. Though generally thought of as local businesses, a significant part of their revenue is derived from travelers passing through the area. The current rerouting of traffic means those businesses are now being bypassed.

The Rosburg Store, which reopened under new management less than a year and a half ago, may be among the hardest hit with co-owner Roni Miller reporting a 70% loss in daily revenue since the slide cut off traffic.

Dave Leeland, the owner of Naselle Hardware, noted that travelers through the area aren’t a large part of his business and the impact of the road closure is fairly negligible on the store’s revenue.

Next door at Hunters Inn, manager Brian Stube reports a noticeable reduction of patrons due to the closure.

“We still have our local customers in the morning and evening,” said Stube. “But it has been pretty dead in between those times. I haven’t calculated an actual percentage of lost revenue, although I’d guess it would be in the 40 to 50% range.”

Similar comments were received from Earl Johnson, owner of the convenience store and Shell gas station in Naselle known locally as “Johnson’s One-Stop.”

“In order to avoid laying anyone off due to revenue reductions, we’ve been adjusting employee’s work hours,” noted Johnson. “It will sure be helpful to all of us when the highway gets opened back up.”

All of them agree it is always important for residents to support local businesses, and even more so during events such as the current road closure.

Not so bad this time

Some in the area recall severe economic impacts from a much larger slide on KM Mountain in February 1990. The 1990 KM Mountain slide was much larger and washed out the highway, taking months to repair. The current football field-size slide has buried the roadway in debris, but has not damaged the structure of the roadway, WSDOT said.

Residents have asked if WSDOT will provide a detour for the current slide as it did for the 1990 KM Mountain slide.

“We do not expect SR 4 to be closed as long as it was closed in the 1990s. During the previous closure, we spent time and resources paving area logging roads and added safety signage. These roads have not been kept up since then, and are not safe for highway traffic,” the agency said.

See https://www.wsdot.com/traffic for updates on the closure.

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