It appears we have a renegade timber operator here. Something
has to be done to bring them into compliance."
- Stan Plowman
North Coast Regional Water Quality Board
Water board member labels PL as 'renegade'
By David Anderson
EUREKA - Pacific Lumber Co. has agreed to provide water for
Elk River ranchers and residents whose supplies have been conta-
minated by sediment.
The agreement, announced last week, comes in response to an
abatement order issued by the North Coast Regional Water Quality
Board. Attorneys for PL stipulated that the company does not
admit to any legal liability for siltation of the river that may have
contributed to flooding.
Water quality board members expressed frustration at the alleged
inability or disinclination of the California Department of Forestry
to enforce rules intended to protect watercourses, and its disregard
of their recommendations when approving PL timber harvest
plans. Board members warned that PL's waste discharge waiver
may no longer be routinely approved, a move that would - make it
difficult for the company to conduct clearcut harvesting.
"It appears we have a renegade timber operator here," said board
member Stan Plowman. "Something has to be done to bring them
PL maintains that siltation of the Elk River, Freshwater Creek and
other streams running through its timberlands results from natural
causes, not its logging and road-building activities. They contend
heavy rains, erodable soils and earthquakes are largely responsible
for landslides that choke streams. But the water agency staff report
states that clearcut logging, especially when it violates the state
Forest Practice Act, substantially increases natural siltation. It
found that landslide volume was 13 times higher from recently
clearcut sections of the Elk River watershed than from areas not
There have been significant discharges of sediment from
PALCO's lands in the North Fork of the.Elk River," the report
states. "Although large storms are a significant factor in the timing
and cause of the discharges, a disproportionate amount of sediment
is discharged from roads and areas with recent harvesting activity.
"PALCO has shown a pattern of violations of the Forest Practice
Rules that have resulted in discharges of sediment in violation of
the basin plan." The sediment has filled up pools and channels in
the river, the report states, and damaged residents' hot water
heaters, agricultural spray equipment and water supply' intakes.
More than 20 residents of Elk. River and of Freshwater appeared
before the board on Thursday to describe flooding and damage to
their property and water supplies they attribute to PL logging. They
asked that new abatement orders be issued for Freshwater Creek
and the Mattole River. Residents also voiced frustration at an ina-
bility to obtain relief via CDF.
The CDF process is broken," said Freshwater resident Bob
Martel. "It's not working- it's not stopping the harm.
They stressed that they are "not anti-logging" and contrasted the
present behavior of PL with the company's former policies before
its 1986 change of ownership.
That company used to be an excellent neighbor," said resident
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