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Monday, April 28, 2014

DNR Defers Helicopter-Logging Sale Near Oso

Posted by on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 5:22 PM

The Riley Rotor timber sale, on steep slopes near the Hazel/Oso slide, which had been approved for helicopter logging by the DNR despite concern from people living below. The grey hashmarks on the lower slope indicate previous landslide activity.
  • The Riley Rotor timber sale, on steep slopes near the Hazel/Oso slide, which had been approved for helicopter logging by the DNR despite concern from people living below. The grey hashmarks on the lower slope indicate previous landslide activity.

Last week, the Department of Natural Resources announced it was putting the Riley Rotor timber sale, about five miles southwest of the Oso slide, on hold for "additional review."

The slopes are so steep, they'd have to be logged by helicopter and, in a map sent by attorney Peter Goldman of the Washington Forest Law Center, show signs of previous landslide activity. As The Stranger reported in an article about the Oso slide, the DNR, and whether the state agency is a good stewart of public resources and public safety:

Just a few days before the landslide, the DNR approved another logging project about 20 miles west of Oso, on land so steep it will have to be logged by helicopter. The slopes, Goldman says, are around 65 degrees—black diamond skiing slopes, by comparison, start at 40 degrees—and have already experienced landslides. The WFLC, on behalf of some concerned residents who live beneath them, opposed the logging during a public-comment period. As a result, Goldman said, the DNR took 6 acres of the approximately 200-acre timber sale off the table...

"The law allows a lot of bad stuff to happen," Goldman said. "The law has not caught up with the environment or with public safety. I'm speaking from 17 years of experience."

Jim Pritzl, who lives just below the slope, said he'd first gotten a letter about the proposed 180-acre logging project in the fall.

"I’ve hiked the land back there with my kids years ago," Pritzl said. "It’s beautiful but it’s extremely steep terrain. To hike it—the kids are good at it—but a lot of places you’re down on all fours, crawling up it. The canals that come down it, and the streams, there are waterfalls."

For several months, the neighbors and the WFLC had lobbied the DNR to stop the sale—which was scheduled for April 23—but didn't get anywhere. "I never had any luck contacting the DNR," he said. "I tried to call them. You call the number and get put on hold and you wait and wait and wait." Goldman says as recently as April 15, the DNR said it was going to go ahead with the sale.

Then, on Thursday the 17th, the DNR announced it was putting it on hold. "We don’t know what went on at that department that was the reason that they changed," Pritzl said. "But I think in view of the fact that the president was coming for a visit and public pressure was mounting," the DNR backed off. (That week, the Seattle Times also published a story about the DNR commissioner Peter Goldmark's acceptance of campaign contributions from logging and wood-product interests, despite an earlier promise that he wouldn't.)

"The logging has really impacted this area," he added. "You look around at these mountains and they all look like they’ve had cancer. They’re really, really stripped."

He said he'd felt safe about living beneath the steep slopes until the landslide. "But we couldn’t move at this time in our lives," Pritzl said. "And if we were to try and sell this—you could imagine the attention and awareness that the landslide brought. That would affect the sale. We couldn’t get enough for the property to buy anything substantial."

The Oso debris field, four weeks after the slide.
  • The Oso debris field, four weeks after the slide.

 

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To play devil's advocate, the geology is not homogeneous throughout the valley. 20 miles to the west can mean the difference between thick, unstable glacial sediments prone to very large landslides like the Oso slide, and hard, stable bedrock mantled by a veneer of superficial material that can release only small debris flows in very confined and predictable areas. Also, the map needs a north arrow and some kind of reference frame for where the location is.
Posted by paleo on April 28, 2014 at 10:00 PM · Report this

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