The city of Seaside plans to harvest 50 to 60 acres of timber from its property in the watershed of the Necanicum River’s south fork in order to buy more watershed property.
“We have been looking around at opportunities to increase our ownership of the watershed,” said Seaside Public Works Director Neal Wallace. “To be quite frank, there is only one way to raise additional funds to purchase land, and that is through the (city’s Watershed Enhancement Fund). ... We feel this is a good place to start.”
The watershed is about 83.7 square miles; the watershed of the south fork of the Necanicum River, where Seaside’s approximately 1,500 acres of property are located, is about 12 to 14 square miles. Boundaries are defined by the United States Geological Survey and based on surface water drainage to a particular point in an area.
Considering a square mile is 640 acres, Wallace said the scope of the city’s upcoming project is small relative to the watershed’s size. The city has not harvested timber since 2008 after back-to-back storms hit in 2006 and 2007 and damaged some forest areas, left ragged edges and required salvage logging.
The city is contracting with forester Mark Dreyer, owner of Lone Cedar Consulting, to handle the overall project, which is scheduled to start in February, pending the availability of crews and the acquisition of permits from the Oregon Department of Forestry. The project should take about two to three months, depending on weather and other factors.
The timber market is good right now, Wallace said, and the city wants to take advantage of that. He anticipates the harvest will bring in a net profit of about $500,000.
The city will clear-cut nearly 50 acres of timber in one area. The 2007 storm damaged part of the area, but the project will extend beyond mere cleanup. In another area, the city will primarily salvage clear-cut on about 10 acres near the southern end of the city’s ownership. The city selected the two areas because they’re removed from the main body of the Necanicum River, and the project should clean up a large boundary edge while requiring virtually no major road building, Wallace said.
The logging crew will have to build a few 100- to 200-foot spurs, however, to access different areas, Dreyer said.
As the consulting forester, Dreyer will hire a logging contractor, manage the timber sales, obtain permits, make arrangements to sell the wood, help purchase trees for reforestation and supervise the contract through to completion. He will have purchase orders in place before the project starts, and if the purchase orders are low and it doesn’t make fiscal sense to do the project now, he can advise the city to wait, Dreyer said.
He’s approached both Berlog, of Clatskanie, and Bighorn Logging Corporation, of Banks, about logging the parcels.
Two of the main risks associated with harvesting timber are harming water quality and increasing the potential for erosion.
There is a medium fish stream and a small fish stream in the area the city intends to cut, Dreyer said. He expects the company he contracts with to take extra precautions to protect the streams and leave at least the minimal setbacks or buffers required by the department of forestry.
Other precautions they can take are to stop work during heavy rain to limit sediment flow and to minimize road building, he said.
The risks and benefits of clear-cutting can vary based on how a project is done, said Necanicum Watershed Council Coordinator Melyssa Graeper.
“The city is seeking support and suggestions from the council to make their harvest as sustainable as it can be,” she said.
The watershed council does not have a particular position on the project at this time and may not take one as a collective body. The council is made up of various stakeholders, some specialists or professionals in fields pertinent to the watershed, that represent a variety of geographic locations and community interests, Graeper said.
City staff members will meet with watershed council members in the following weeks to provide them with more information about the project.
Graeper said, ultimately, the council’s goal is to be a resource for all watershed property owners and to guide them in best management practices. When it comes to timber harvest, the council encourages owners to “tailor their harvest in the most sustainable way for the given situation.”
When it comes to reforesting after the harvest, the city hopes to plant the typical spruce and hemlock seedlings, but also other indigenous plants to “create a more natural, diverse forest,” Wallace said.
“We want to do it in the most responsible way we can,” he said.
Oregon’s Forest Practices Act holds the landowner responsible for reforestation after certain projects. Within 12 months of completing a harvesting operation or after felling begins, landowners must start reforestation tasks such as site preparation and ordering seedlings. They have 24 months to complete planting. Residual seedlings, saplings or poles and trees all count toward stocking, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“The landowner must see to it that the trees are in ‘free to grow’ condition six years after harvesting,” according to state regulations. “Free to grow” means that a tree has a good chance of outgrowing competing grass and brush to become part of a vigorous, healthy forest.
Dreyer said there has been a shortage of seedlings, so it may be hard to purchase them all this year, but he should acquire them in time to plant in 2016.
The city does not know what new watershed areas it might purchase with the money from this harvest, Wallace said. He believes there are some future deals that could be made to acquire property. Campbell Global, a forest and natural resource investments management company, and Weyerhaeuser, a forest products company, own the property adjacent to the city’s. property
Regardless of what deals can be made, the money made in the watershed will be spent in and on the watershed, Wallace said.
“Our management on the watershed is going to be one of water quality and not timber profits,” he said. The city’s objectives are different and less aggressive than those of some other owners, such as timber companies, Wallace added.
“Timber companies manage their land for profit,” he said. “We think we would probably be better stewards of the land within the watershed. We’re not driven by profit, even though we’re doing a small clear-cut here.”
The city hopes to not just buy any acreage but to get more fragile, higher-risk and critical areas. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated the agency might be able to augment the city’s funds, as it encourages municipalities to own bigger chunks of the watershed, Wallace said.
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