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Water Board Gives Green Light for Logging in Freshwater and Elk Watersheds

Despite lack of facts, the Water Quality Board ok's more Maxxam logging above Freshwater Creek and Elk River.
Welcome to Freshwater
Welcome to Freshwater
Eureka, CA - Maxxam/Pacific Lumber will be allowed to clear-cut more steep hillsides in the blighted Freshwater and Elk River watersheds, the Regional Water board decided Friday. The decision flies in the face of independent scientific data that shows logging by Maxxam/PL is causing permanent damage to the two Northern California areas that are listed as sediment impaired under the Clean Water Act.

"At this point I am prepared to approve timber harvest plans that will allow Pacific Lumber Company to harvest up to 50 percent of the annual harvest limit set by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for these watersheds," said Catherine Kuhlman, the North Coast Regional Water Board's Executive Officer in a press release. "Staff inspections this week have assured me that excess sediment will not run off from those operations."

Residents of the two damaged watersheds question how the Board could have come to that conclusion when they don't have PL's coveted landslide data. While acknowledging that 50% is better than 100%, or even 80%, "the decision is nonetheless arbitrary and improper, as it is made in the absence of the necessary landslide data," said Humboldt Watershed Council president Mark Lovelace. "Without this data that PL has been refusing to provide, the Regional Board simply cannot make a qualified decision,"

The timber corporation is also unhappy according to a press release, which said it is "very disappointed" in the decision that did not give it 100% of its logging plans. It went on to say PL will continue to work to convince the Water Board to release all the trees they intend to cut.

In negotiations with the Water Board, PL offered to remove sediment from the clogged rivers and creeks, possibly with the assistance of the California Conservation Corps, a tax-payer funded program. Local residents scoffed at such a prospect, saying it is more of PL's attempts to externalize costs of the damage created by their lucrative pillaging of the land.

It's not yet clear which plans will be cut, though four plans released under "interim" permits last December will be included in the 50%. Those plans have already been cut. Included in the possible Freshwater plans is the McCready-Cloney harvest plan, where the ancient redwoods known as "Jerry" and "Everlasting Life" still stand. In the spring of 2003, more than 40 people were arrested in protest of PL's logging of that area, which is on steep slopes above Freshwater and McCready Creeks. Jerry has been occupied by treesitter "Willow" since November 11, 2003.

Holding PL to 50% of their allotted annual logging in the two watersheds is "some progress," said watershed restoration expert Richard Gienger. "We're culturally trying to turn over to a standard of recovery, not maintain the damage," which is all the acreage limits imposed by CDF do. By the time the limits were imposed in 1999, logging by PL had already caused numerous landslides and flooding that prompted lawsuits by affected residents.

The fifteen or so logging plans that have been the focus these last few months only account for PL's intended logging in the first quarter of the year.

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