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Alternative road agreement developed after property owners close portion of road

More than two years after landowners closed a portion of Teaters Road to public traffic, an alternative access road is finally ready for use.

The Bureau of Land Management, Prineville District, Waibel Ranches, LLC and Crook County have announced the opening of the new public road that replaces the existing Teaters Road and provides the same level of access from Highway 380 east of Prineville to the BLM-managed north fork of the Crooked River and the southwest side of the Ochoco National Forest.

About five miles of Teaters Road crosses property owned by Waibel Ranches. In May 2015, the property owner closed access to that portion of the road due to consistent litter, poaching and trespassing problems.

In response, the BLM pushed to reopen the road, prompting an eventual agreement between the two parties that included construction of a new portion of road that would bypass the west end of the Waibel Ranches property.

The agreement initially called for completion of the road by Aug. 1, but a harsh winter caused construction delays, prompting limited access to Teaters Road late this summer as construction on the alternative road continued.

Starting Aug. 1, Teaters Road was opened Mondays through Thursdays, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., to allow evening and early morning public access during road construction. The road was also open on Friday evenings at 6 p.m. and remained open through Monday mornings at 6 a.m. for full weekend access. The road was completely closed to public access Aug. 17-24, to offer an uncongested route for emergency services vehicles to access the Ochoco National Forest for rescues, medical needs and wildfire response during the days surrounding the 2017 solar eclipse.

BLM officials said the new road opened for public on Nov. 2, providing public access for recreation, hunting and fishing, but the organization is urging visitors to use caution as fence crews are still working along the roadside.

BLM stresses that Waibel Ranches facilitated the construction of the new road at their own expense and at their own initiative for the purpose of providing access to the same public lands while reducing the liability, trespass, poaching and littering issues associated with public travel along the old Teaters Road. Going forward, Teaters Road will be gated and closed for public access.

With the new road complete, Waibel Ranches will donate the road to Crook County, and the county will keep the road as a local access road going forward. Waibel Ranches has also agreed to maintain the road for two years, or until the BLM acquires a public right-of-way from Crook County, whichever timeframe is shortest.

Once Crook County accepts the new road into the county transportation network, the BLM will begin environmental analysis to obtain a public right-of-way on the new road and to examine the alternative of relinquishing the public easement held on the old Teaters Road.

Although BLM has informally received input about the new road from a variety of interested parties and adjoining landowners to date, one of the objectives of its intended NEPA analysis would be to provide a more formal opportunity for all affected persons, groups or members of the public to provide input on the intended proposed action, and any potential environmental effects it is likely to have, prior to the BLM reaching any final decision.

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