Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
BAYSIDE – The Timber Harvest Plan (THP) for logging at Baywood Golf & Country Club was submitted for state approval May 1, and returned unapproved following its first review last Thursday, May 11.
The THP will have to be revised, supplemented and resubmitted to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) before any tree falling may commence.
Baywood representatives announced the pending plan at an April 2 meeting at the retro-elegant club nestled in the farthest wooded reaches of Buttermilk Lane. Baywood hopes to log about 73 forested and grassland acres in and around its golf course over the next few years in order to prop up its flagging finances (Union, April 5).
Timber harvests must comply with environmental standards enforced by a variety of regulatory agencies, with Cal Fire at the lead. A THP gains approval via a multi-step process which includes public comment.
A detailed plan is required, one which at least on paper, minimizes impacts on everything from wildlife to archaeological assets, air and water quality, local roads and these days, the climate. The plans are complicated, and like Baywood’s, don’t always pass first muster.
The Baywood THP would permit logging over five years, though Baywood said it would like to get it all done in as few as two years. A section on winter operations indicates that some logging could occur year-round.
Logging roads and landings would have to be constructed on site. The logs would be hauled out via Buttermilk Lane in an estimated 200 truck trips. Numerous environmental measures are described, including erosion control, water quality and habitat protection.
Products of the group selection cut could be marketed to a number of buyers, including three Arcata business.
THPs submitted to Cal Fire’s Fortuna Resource Management office are assigned a number and distributed to a review team. A First Review is conducted, and if found insufficient, is returned with a list of required corrections, as was done last week.
It may then be revised and resubmitted for review. If accepted, a Pre-Harvest Inspection takes place within 10 days, with a Second Review to follow. Public comment closes 10 days later, and a final determination is made within 15 more days.
22 problems, including a whopper and a giggle
The 153-page THP 1-17-044-HUM, prepared by Fortuna Registered Professional Forester Cameron Holmgren, was returned with a list of 22 issues. They include technical glitches as trivial as the common misspelling, “Sunny Brea,” plus some missing details and documentation. The list reflects a detailed examination by Cal Fire staff, but sometimes misses the big picture.
One point raised by Cal Fire harkens back to the fateful, February, 2000 Sierra Pacific Industries THP that culminated in the creation of the Sunny Brae Tract of the Arcata Community Forest.
In point no. 10 Cal Fire first quotes the THP’s statement that, “There are no public recreational facilities within or directly adjacent to the plan area,” then deadpans, “Yet the project area is located on a golf course.”
States the Baywood THP under “Vehicular Traffic Impacts” on page 60, “All of the public roads have been used historically and frequently for the transportation of wood products with no known past or existing traffic, safety or maintenance problems ... The proposed project should not create any significant cumulative impacts to vehicular traffic within the assessment area.”
In this, the THP ignores past history and current events openly discussed at the April 2 meeting:
• Use of narrow, perennially pothole-ravaged Buttermilk Lane by log trucks was a key sticking point during the approval process for the SPI THP 15 years ago. Citizen pressure during the THP approval process resulted in inclusion of specified hours for log trucks’ use of the street to reduce danger to students arriving and departing Sunny Brae Middle School (SBMS). A guide vehicle to escort log trucks past the school was also required. Holmgren dismissed these measures as “costly” at the April 2 meeting.
• On April 5, the Arcata City Council approved a $1.075 million bid for reconstruction of Buttermilk Lane. The work includes new paving, signage, sewer laterals and some sewer line work. Construction is to take place this summer, during the same period log trucks would be traveling up and down the street. A citizen told Holmgren about this at the meeting, and the city has since been in touch with Baywood about the road project.
Cal Fire treats the unrealistic traffic claims as more of a paperwork problem than a public safety issue.
The agency refers Holmgren to page 20 of the THP, where under “constraints,” the school traffic issue is indirectly acknowledged: “To help mitigate for child safety, log truck traffic shall minimize hauling by Sunny Brae Middle School during these peak times.”
The agency instructs Holmgren to cite this “mitigation measure” in the “Vehicular Traffic Impacts” section, and to then check a box that says there are “No Reasonable Potential Significant Effects” – ignoring the concurrent roadwork on Buttermilk Lane through which the trucks would have to thread their way.
Further, the mitigation measure’s “peak times” aren’t specified, nor does it say how hauling will “minimize” – whether the trucks wait, drive slower or if hauling is halted during the undefined period.
Holmgren advised at the April 2 meeting that log truck violations weren’t Baywood’s responsibility, and should be reported to police. But as citizens learned from previous logging projects in Sunny Brae, without tangible guidelines, there could be no violations of them.
As has happened before, responding police would have no specific restrictions on which to base any enforcement other than basic traffic law, which doesn’t address potential peak use conflicts between children and log trucks.
Cal Fire doesn’t address the unenforceability problem, and accepts the vague language as a solid mitigation measure.
The THP does follow through with a limitation Holmgren promised at the April 2 meeting – harvest operations are limited to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, with no Sunday operations.
Other items highlighted for correction dwell on the lack of specifics about mitigations for habitat impacts; and missing details on roads, channels, fish barriers and culverts that will be constructed on site.
In one instance, the official feedback verges on gigglesome. In point no. 10 Cal Fire first quotes the THP’s statement that, “There are no public recreational facilities within or directly adjacent to the plan area,” then deadpans, “Yet the project area is located on a golf course.”
The agency asks for a more complete assessment of the course’s recreational opportunities for the public, such as whether non-members are allowed to play there.
Cal Fire Forester Ruth Norman said the number of flaws in Baywood’s THP wasn’t unusual, and that returns for revision are common as well.
She said professional foresters often use an old plan as a template for a new one, and some details inadvertently carry over. Even plans which are accepted might have 10 or 15 mistakes, Norman said.
Resources and opportunities
Anyone wishing to read the initial THP may view and download it at ftp://thp.fire.ca.gov/THPLibrary/North_Coast_Region/THPs/THPs2017/1-17-044HUM/. Log in as a guest to get around the password requirement.
Those wishing to comment may do so by emailing Cal Fire at [email protected]. Be sure to reference THP#1-17-044HUM.