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Tree removal project to shut down MT 35 south of Bigfork Monday

| January 25, 2024 10:35 AM

A project to remove a dead tree near Fishing Rock Lane south of Bigfork is expected to shut down MT 35 for more than two hours Monday morning.

Flathead Electric Cooperative (FEC), the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), and the US Forest Service (USFS) will partner to support efforts removing the dead tree, closing the narrow area to traffic while work is occurring and forcing travelers to seek alternate routes.

Two cranes and multiple crews will assist with the tree’s removal, which is weather-dependent and will be rescheduled in case of high winds or plowing priorities as required by MDT. If the closure is rescheduled, the local press will be asked to share the news and MDT’s variable message signs on MT 35, near Polson and Bigfork, will be updated. In this case, information will also be posted on FEC, MDT, and USFS websites. 

The nearby Bear Dance Trail, USFS Trail 76, will also be closed in both directions on the day in question. 

The tree that will be removed is more than 110 feet tall and located on the east side of the road at approximately mile marker 23. The tree, dead for many years, has significant rot around its base. Without removal, it is expected to fall across MT 35. It is also highly likely that, if not removed, the tree will fall into the power lines on the west side of MT 35.  

“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,” FEC Integrated Services Manager Amanda Opp said. “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.” 

The tree is home to an unoccupied osprey nest. Multiple biologists from federal and state agencies were consulted about the tree’s removal and approved the same. 

Ospreys migrate seasonally and are not expected to return to Northwest Montana until April. The tree’s removal is not expected to impact the birds. However, the nest will be inspected again on the day of the removal. 

A brief power outage may occur during the road closure.