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

State water official halts logging plan
Thursday, April 7, 2005

Pacific Lumber to appeal temporary ban in two Humboldt County watersheds


SACRAMENTO - In a major setback for Pacific Lumber Co., a state water official Wednesday temporarily banned additional logging in two Humboldt County watersheds.

Pacific Lumber quickly responded by filing an immediate appeal and requesting that it be heard by all five members of the state Water Resources Control Board within 30 days.

"In the meantime, we are evaluating our options and doing everything we can to overcome this setback," said company President Robert Manne.
It could be up to four months before Pacific Lumber's appeal is heard, said Liz Kanter, a state water board spokeswoman.

The logging ban was ordered by Richard Katz, a former state legislator and current state water board member. Katz presided over a contentious five-hour hearing Tuesday on the high-profile case.

On Wednesday, Katz put a hold on logging that Pacific Lumber had planned over the next 90 days in the Elk River and Freshwater Creek watersheds of southern Humboldt County. The disputed timber cutting could have generated about $12 million for the cash-starved company, averting layoffs at its sawmills in Scotia and Fortuna.

Katz's decision, for now, nullifies a 5-3 vote taken March 17 by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The Santa Rosa-based board had voted to allow an additional 25 percent of timber to be logged.

Katz said he had no choice but to issue the logging ban because the targeted trees would be cut before the full state water board had a chance to decide the merits of the controversy.

"The action will be irreversible and any harm that may result will be unavoidable," Katz said.

His action Wednesday rolls back logging to 50 percent of the volume Pacific Lumber originally sought in the two watersheds.

"The financial effects of the delay are relatively small compared to the scope of (Pacific Lumber's) operations, and the record makes it clear that Pacific Lumber's actions are the underlying cause of any financial problems it faces," Katz's decision said.

Steve Will, owner of a Eureka trucking company that employs about 140 people, sharply disagreed.

Will testified at Tuesday's hearing that his company would have earned about $1.2­million from Pacific Lumber by hauling the cut timber to company mills over the next three months.

Will said Wednesday he was stunned by Katz's decision.

"It seems as though Mr. Katz chose to ignore all that. I think he owes the hard-working families of Humboldt County an explanation," he said.

Katz's decision was hailed, however, by neighboring landowners and environmental groups, who have fought the company's most recent logging plans for the two watersheds.

Rural residents have argued that sediment from heavy timber cutting over the past decade has filled stream beds, created local flooding problems and tainted water supplies. More logging will only make the situation worse, according to their complaints.

"We're very pleased with the decision. And we believe it doesn't create the 'doom-and-gloom' scenario that the company suggests," said Paul Mason, a Sierra Club spokesman.

While potentially a political embarrassment for the Santa Rosa agency, Katz's decision was hailed Wednesday by its chairwoman, Bev Wasson.

Wasson, a Healdsburg grape grower and the longest-serving regional water board member, had opposed the March 17 motion to allow more timber cutting.

"I think the state board did the right thing," Wasson said.

But Pacific Lumber's Manne called Katz's decision "arbitrary," noting that it "overruns the considered decision of the regional water board, which has been working on this issue for months."

As a result, Manne said the logging halt creates "even more uncertainty for our company and employees, and our future."

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