“Third in a series” is how Public Works Director Dale McDowell called the Source Water Protection Plan and Timber Management Plan, in process of public input. The purpose of the report is to guide the city in making decisions around increased forest management while protecting the quality of water flowing out of its timberlands.
The plan follow the Source Water Assessment, completed in 2016 and the Water Management and Conservation Plan, delivered in April 2017.
With the water protection plan’s first update since 1983, officials are developing rules for protecting and managing about 1,100 acres of city-owned forestland within the Necanicum Watershed. The entire Necanicum watershed consists of 49,000 acres; of that, the South Fork portion amounts to 5,192 acres or 18 percent. The city of Seaside owns 1,100 acres in the South Fork; the rest is split nearly evenly by timber operators Lewis & Clark and Weyerhaeuser.
In 2015, Katie Voelke, executive director of the North Coast Land Conservancy, and Melyssa Graeper, coordinator for the watershed council at the time, had asked the city to temporarily halt timber harvesting until they could offer harvesting alternatives. City staff members later discovered after searching the archives, that the city had a timber management plan that hadn’t been updated for more than two decades.
Instead of clear-cutting and replanting trees that eventually become uniform in size, the management plan would be more selective in the trees harvested, leaving room for smaller trees to grow and protect stream banks, Voelke said at the time.
The city and the Necanicum Watershed Council applied for and received a $30,000 grant from Infrastructure Financing Authority to develop a new plan, subsequently prepared by Mason, Bruce and Girard of Portland.
The Necanicum River Drinking Water Resource area serves more than 6,700 Seaside residents.
Water flows from the mountains to the ocean, McDowell said, via an intake system and through steel pipes with exterior coating, McDowell said at Monday’s City Council meeting, “We don’t want any dirt, sediment, pesticides or herbicides used around it. We want to keep it as pristine as possible.”
The timber management plan, delivered in conjunction with the source water plan, will set rules for logging operations, which if approved, would be set out to bid for subcontractors. The plan describes the nature of timberland property and standards and guidelines to protect water resource during harvest activities.
For logging operations, the city must show how they log and where they log, and how the water source is protected, McDowell said. Logging revenues typically go to maintenance on roads, bridges and to buy additional land.
One of the advantages of Seaside’s water source is the lack of development, agriculture or septic systems around it.
“It’s Mother Nature at her best,” he said.
Neighboring landowners Lewis & Clark and Weyerhaeuser have “stringent rules for their own property,” he said. “Everybody is working together to protect the city.”
According to the city’s new report, much of the forest is in the mature age classes from 55 to 65 years, with most stands properly stocked and ready for final harvest. The updated management plan identifies the management activities that could impact water quality, and makes recommendations to mitigate negative consequences. The report offers three potential harvest schedules.
Depending on the type of logging — clear-cutting with ground logging or cable logging, or thinning with ground logging, the city could see net revenue of approximately $4,000 to $14,000 per acre.
Logging revenues typically go to maintenance on roads, bridges and to buy additional land, McDowell said.
The city is in talks now with neighboring timber companies to purchase recently logged land.
“The time to purchase the next property is after they clear-cut it,” McDowell said. “That’s the cheapest time to buy it. There’s no harvest.”
During City Council comment, Councilor Tom Horning and Joyce Hunt of the Necanicum Watershed Council both urged longer times between harvests, or potentially foregoing harvest of trees on city-owned land. Each cited the value of older trees in retaining water, preventing drought and reducing climate warming.
“You can get 50 percent more water flow from an old forest than a young forest,” Horning said. “In future, as the climate the planet warms and the pop increases the city’s going to have need to have a reliable source of water that flows at a larger feet per second than it does under present conditions. It would be nice to see the options that address this more than the current plan does.
The public comment period remains open, McDowell said, with a goal of submitting the plan by Oct. 1.