Friends of the Van Duzen River
A Grass Roots community organization comprised of residents and visitors to the Van Duzen Region. We are Dedicated to helping to restore the river for future Generations

Firm's logging rights restricted
San Francisco Chronicle - Feb. 26, 2005


Firm's logging rights restricted
Water board cuts Pacific Lumber's request by half

February 26, 2005

Pacific Lumber Co. was given permission Friday to harvest about half the timber the company wants to log on its North Coast lands in the coming year. But environmentalists said even that would be too much, predicting catastrophic landslides.

Catherine Kuhlman, executive officer of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, granted the Humboldt County company rights to log about 250 acres on the Freshwater Creek drainage and 300 acres on the Elk River drainage.

That represents 50 percent of the allowable logging limits set by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Robert Klamt, the acting chief of the timber harvest division of the water quality board.

The board is responsible for approving timber harvest plans on private land in areas where water quality may be compromised by siltation or landslides.

Klamt said officials based the decision on studies of logging's impact on watershed protection and recovery goals. "Our staff has spent the last two days up there examining the company's erosion control efforts," he said.

Pacific Lumber spokesman Chuck Center said he was "disappointed by the board's decision," but said the company still hopes to improve the terms.

"We'll continue to work with them," Center said. "We've made offers and proposals to fix the flooding and will continue to do that."

Company critics argued the water agency didn't take enough account of the landslide risk.

Mark Lovelace, the president of the Humboldt Watershed Council, said the decision "was not as bad as it could have been, but it was arbitrary and based on inadequate science."

The water quality board "only considered sediment from surface sources, like roads," he said. "They didn't take into consideration sedimentation from landslides, which are the major problems on these drainages."

Both the Freshwater Creek and Elk River drainages have suffered from landslides and heavy flooding since Pacific Lumber and its lands were purchased by Maxxam Corp. in 1985, and logging was greatly increased.

Environmentalists charge that the slides, floods and siltation are directly linked to the increased timber harvest. Pacific Lumber maintains the problems are the legacy of logging practices of the past.

Recently, Pacific Lumber executives said the company was on the verge of bankruptcy because of strictures enforced through a 1999 agreement involving the transfer of the 7,500-acre, old-growth Headwaters Forest for $480 million. As part of that deal, the company agreed to a "habitat conservation plan" that limits logging on its remaining 200,000 acres of land.

In recent years, the company has claimed financial losses ranging from about $30 million to $100 million annually. It has closed three mills and laid off about half of its 1,700-member workforce.

Officials say the approval of 11 pending timber harvest plans for Freshwater Creek and Elk River are essential for company solvency, but those plans have been held up by the water quality board's concern about further erosion. Center said he wasn't prepared Friday to talk about the specific financial impact of the water board's latest ruling.

Sheryl Schaffner, the legal counsel for the water quality board, said the agency was still considering other proposals by the company that could lead to increased logging in the two drainages.

"These proposals include things such as dredging the streams to reduce flooding potential and improving bridges to allow better evacuation in case there is flooding," Schaffner said. "We won't know if these plans are acceptable until we look at them closely."

The board will consider the proposals at a meeting scheduled for March 16 in Santa Rosa, Schaffner said.

E-mail Glen Martin at

Friends of the Van Duzen River
PO Box 315
Carlotta, CA 95528
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