The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners has asked the state to delay a controversial timber sale near Arch Cape.
In a letter sent to Astoria District Forester Dan Goody on Thursday afternoon, commissioners cite ongoing concerns about how harvest operations on more than 70 acres of state land on the east side of U.S Highway 101 between Arcadia Beach and Hug Point might impact drinking water, among other issues.
The commissioners ask for a chance to meet with representatives from the Oregon Department of Forestry “to discuss possible alternative options for this sale in an effort to address the concerns of the constituents such as notification, impacts to drinking water, landslides, habitat and view considerations.”
The letter follows outcry from environmental groups, concerned South County residents and people who live and own property in a neighborhood below the proposed Norriston Heights timber sale. Earlier this month, more than 60 people gathered at Hug Point to rally against the sale.
The state expects to net just under $1 million from the sale, the bulk of which would go to local services, including public transit in Seaside and rural fire protection in Cannon Beach.
The sale was proposed in the Department of Forestry’s annual operations plan and was available for public comment earlier this year, but will not go out to bid until October. It could be several years before any trees are cut.
Officials from the Department of Forestry have said it is unlikely the state would change its harvest plans at this juncture.
Roger Neugebauer, who draws his water from creeks that flow down from the state’s land, told commissioners at a meeting this month that he did not receive any notice from the state about the timber sale.
He was able to provide testimony to the state during the open public comment period on the operations plan, but asked the county to help stop the sale.
He argued that the state “moved forward without notice to the people who are dramatically impacted and it makes me feel helpless in the face of a government that doesn’t listen to the people.”
The Norriston Heights timber sale is bordered on two sides by industrial timberland, but is adjacent to old growth tree stands and a pocket of known marbled murrelet habitat. Marbled murrelets, small seabirds that nest in old-growth forests, are considered threatened in Oregon.
After hearing peoples’ concerns, a majority of county commissioners supported sending a letter to the state.
“I think we have been getting a lot of (timber) revenue which is great, but it should be balanced … and the Board of Commissioners at this time does take a balanced approach,” said Sarah Nebeker, the commission’s chairwoman. “I don’t see why a letter to the Department of Forestry … asking them to further consider will be harmful to our county.”
Commissioner Mark Kujala was the only commissioner opposed to sending a letter.
“I think you can have forest management and you can have healthy watersheds,” he said. “These things are not necessarily mutually exclusive and I think that (the Department of Forestry) has had their process, they’ve had public comment, they’ve had an opportunity to pull things off and modify the sale.
“I just don’t feel comfortable intervening at the last minute and saying that we don’t think that they understood.”
The state did modify some details of the proposed timber sale after hearing from the public, said Jason Cox, a spokesman for the Department of Forestry. The state increased tree buffers around streams and will not allow harvest on the windward side of the property.