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

Our Views: Trees, roads and floods
By Bee Editorial Staff
Published 2:15 am PST Monday, February 21, 2005


Our Views: Trees, roads and floods

Pacific Lumber, water board need to partner

By Bee Editorial Staff
Published 2:15 am PST Monday, February 21, 2005

One of California's largest environmental experiments centers on whether the north coast's most controversial logging company can somehow improve the health of 300 square miles of watershed while logging enough
redwoods to pay off $750 million in debt. It's a tall order, to put it mildly. But neither the Pacific Lumber Co.'s desire for a healthy balance sheet nor a regional water board's desire for a healthy
watershed can be fulfilled without a strategy that both can live with.

The Pacific Lumber Co. is owned by Houston's Maxxam Corp., which is headed by Charles Hurwitz. (He bought the company on the proverbial corporate credit card, the reason for the $750 million in debt). This is
the company that owned the largest old-growth redwood forest left in private hands, known as Headwaters. In 1999, the state and federal governments spent $480 million to acquire the Headwaters and other
nearby old growth forests. As part of this deal, the company and four state and federal agencies committed to a 50-year plan for environmentally sustainable forestry for its remaining lands, which
occupy some 300 square miles in Humboldt County.

There have been many bumps along the way, but this experiment has yet to fail. Now it faces perhaps its biggest challenge to date. A government that wasn't part of this 1999 deal, the North Coast Regional Water
Quality Control Board, is stepping up its regulation of logging because of how much sediment timber harvesting discharges into streams. The board has yet to figure out, watershed by watershed, precisely how much
logging is permissible in what locations to meet its discharge standards.

Years of timber harvesting on the Pacific Lumber lands have left tons of sediment in creeks and rivers. The sediment means that residents downstream face a higher frequency of flooding. These folks are,
understandably, not happy. They and environmental groups have been aggressively pushing the water board to solve this sediment problem by restricting future logging.

No one questions that past logging practices have profoundly altered this watershed. Singling out new logging, however, misses the broader challenge here. There is persuasive evidence that Pacific Lumber's
logging roads - 1,500 miles of them - are now the biggest cause of new sediment in the waterways, not the new logging. The win-win (if there isone here) is to combine careful future timber harvesting with a whole
lot more road maintenance (grading, spreading gravel, installing culverts, decommissioning roads, etc).

The water board and the company, however, have no joint strategy. The board is delaying some timber harvest plans that four other state and federal agencies have approved; the company is fighting back, worried
that it won't have enough trees to cut in order to meet its debt payments.

Shutting down the company and neglecting 1,500 miles of sediment-producing roads cut into hillsides won't help the watershed. The government and the company need to work together to meet their very
different missions. That is the only way either side can come out ahead.

Visit us at

Friends of the Van Duzen River
PO Box 315
Carlotta, CA 95528
Home | About | Educational Projects | Water Monitoring |
Water Quality Board |Salmon Watch | Timber Watch | VD Defense |Watershed Analysis