Last summer’s fires devastated a lot of the country around Mt Hotham.
The North West Spur fire burnt hot up and out of the Upper East Ovens valley, over the St Bernard – Sugarloaf ridge, killing a lot of the remaining Alpine Ash forests along the upper sections of the Great Alpine Road that had survived previous fires, and snow gum forests at higher elevations.
A huge effort was made to get the road open in time for Easter and winter, with massive tree felling operations along the road, and removal of debris.
The final stage in these operations is now underway, and Vic Roads will be doing works on the Great Alpine Road from November 11th through until early December to remove fire damaged trees effected by the 2013 bushfires. One of the problems has been the large number of trees killed in previous fires being burnt again this year, and becoming very likely to collapse.
For anyone that has driven the road in recent months, you will be painfully aware of the visual impacts of these operations.
What is less clear at this point is the environmental impacts of effectively clear felling a large swathe of forest along the road. As noted by VicRoads, this clearing is substantial in some areas, between 10 and 40 metres from the roadside. There have been attempts to reduce the impacts of this work, for instance removing many of the trees being felled beyond what would be normal on the forest floor, and aerial seeding of alpine ash.
But the fact remains that safety considerations for traffic has resulted in a 20 km clearcut, mostly within a national park.
The following info is from VicRoads via Hotham management.
VicRoads advises that access to sections of the Great Alpine Road will be reduced at various times from Monday 11 November until Friday 20 December to enable the safe removal of dead and dangerous bushfire damaged trees.
These works are a continuation of the tree removal works that were undertaken prior to the 2013 snow season. It is essential for VicRoads to remove these hazardous fire damaged trees from the roadside as soon as possible as they present a potential road safety hazard.
From Monday 11 November until early December, the Great Alpine Road will be closed to traffic between Harrietville and Dargo High Plains Road between 8.00am & 1.00pm and 2.00pm & 5.00pm on weekdays to enable tree removal from within 10 metres of the roadside. However, the road will be open at all other times including weekends.
From early December until Friday 20 December, tree removal will continue in an area 10-40 metres from the roadside in the Alpine National Park. This work is being undertaken in consultation with Parks Victoria. Local traffic closures will be in place with delays expected.
In addition to the tree removal, VicRoads will also be replacing fire damaged guardrail at 11 locations.
The Alps Link bus service between Omeo and Bright will continue to run during this time.
During the road closure period, Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain will remain accessible via Omeo and Dargo at all times.
Access between Bright and Omeo will be available via Bright-Tawonga Road (C536), Kiewa Valley Highway (C531) to Mount Beauty, then along the Bogong High Plains Road (C531) and the Omeo Highway (C543) to Omeo.
VicRoads encourages motorists travelling through the area to plan ahead and allow for significant additional travel time.
Motorists are requested to observe the changed traffic conditions for their own safety and the safety of workers nearby the road, including adhering to reduced speed limits.
VicRoads thanks the community for their patience while these important works are carried out.
For enquiries or more information about the works, please contact VicRoads on 5761 1827.