Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mudslides and Logging.....

Panel hears testimony on mudslides, logging

OLYMPIA -- Logging practices, as well as the state's oversight of clearcutting on steep slopes, came under scrutiny Thursday at a special legislative hearing on whether logging and development might have played a role in December's devastating Southwest Washington floods.
The hearing, before the Senate Natural Resources, Ocean & Recreation Committee, was sparked by a Seattle Times photograph showing severe mudslides on a steep Lewis County mountain slope that had been clearcut near a Chehalis River tributary.

Numerous slides crashed into Stillman Creek, adding to the mix of mud, wood debris and floodwaters that inundated homes and farms in the Boistfort Valley west of Chehalis.
"I felt it was imperative to make sure the committee was taking a look at this," said Sen. Ken Jacobsen, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the committee.

Officials with Weyerhaeuser Co., which owns more than 2 million acres of commercial forestland in the region, said a combination of snow, wind and rain from the December storms created a "rare and extreme magnitude" weather event that dropped as much as 20 inches of rain in some areas.

And they displayed another photo of the same hilltop depicted in the newspaper photo, but taken from a different angle. The second photo showed a mudslide in an area covered by trees.
"Landslides are going to occur," said Bob Bilby, senior scientific adviser with Weyerhaeuser. "They're going to occur regardless of what type of management you do on the land."

Eric Schroff, region manager for the state Department of Natural Resources' Pacific Cascade Region, told lawmakers that a majority of landslides occur "in direct relation to these intense winter storms" and that the effect of timber harvesting is "highly variable."

But David Montgomery, professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, argued that current forest practice rules don't protect against major landslides.

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