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Sweet Home, Oregon
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October 24, 2012     The New Era Paper
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October 24, 2012
 

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Tile . "r. - October 24, 2012 VouR COMMUNITV Page 11 II Soda From page 1 area. They and other interested individuals got a close look at the variety of individual projects that will make up the overall plan. The Cool Soda planning area includes the Soda Fork drainage, bounded on the north by Cool Camp and the south by Highway 20, roughly 25 miles east. of Sweet Home. About 60 percent of the drainage is owned privately, mostly land managed by Cascade Timber Consulting; and about 40 percent is owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Multiple agencies, interests and members of the public have been involved in planning a restoration proposal since last spring. The Sweet Home Ranger District provided a copy of the draft proposal to participants touring the Cool Soda area Thursday. CTC is already working on improving elk forage areas in the drainage. "We're primarily a logging company," said Steve Pace describing CTC's role. "So we need to make sure our landowners have logs in 80, 100 years. But we need to protect the wildlife." The company is hoping that providing better forage for elk will help keep the elk from eating seedlings and trees as much. CTC is working with the Oregon Hunter's Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to implement its project. The Cool Soda project also includes eight culverts that need to be replaced. Across the road from where Gatchell was talking about the culvert problems, aquatic biologist Brett Blundon described the work needed in the Soda Fork, which provides spawning beds for spring Chinook and winter steelhead. He pointed to a large tree and root ball in the stream already. Upstream and downstream of that location, the stream bed has been scoured completely to bedrock, more than 50 percent of the stream, Blundon said. Some of those areas need trees and debris to slow down the water and catch sediments and gravel to provide spawning beds. "As you can see, it's not bedrock when you have wood," Blundon said, noting that trees can be pulled down into the stream for about $750 each. At the next stop, heading higher into the drainage, Johan Hogervorst, Cool Soda co- coordinator, talked about sidecast road construction, a problematic A log truck passes by during the Cool Soda tour. method used decades ago. The edge of the roadway was composed of thick stones, which replaced the fill dirt that slid away into the stream. That's how sidecast roads are repaired, Hogervorst said. Before 1975, road crews would cut half of the road from a hillside and then push the edge of the road out using the fill material. Now, the road is cut entirely from the hillside. In the sidecast roads, the fill material gets saturated and eventually fails, dropping into fish- bearing streams, Hogervorst said. The fine sediments can potentially cover up good spawning gravel. Sediment isn't a bad thing either, he said, but the old sidecast can put a lot of fine material into the stream all at once. The plan includes several sidecast correction projects, in which sidecast material will be hauled away and stored on stable ground. In some cases, the material will be taken to another location, Hogervorst said. "At times you'll actually move your road bed into the bank and make it stable. It depends." Funding is a problem with the road system in Cool Soda. Until the 1980s, the Forest Service covered its part of the maintenance with timber revenue. "The Forest Service does not have the funds to maintain a road system like it has in the past," Hogervorst said. At the same time, it is obliged to share the cost of maintaining the system in the Cool Soda area with private landowners. Regardless of the private- timber interests, it would need to maintain the roads for recreational purposes. The system connects to the Middle Santiam Wilderness. The Forest Service has identified regeneration harvest areas that should provide revenue to help pay for the roads and the planned projects, Gatchell said. This stand of Douglas fir is identified as an area to be harvested under the proposed Cool Soda plan. Revenue from the sale would fund other restora- tion projects on the Cool Soda while providing new early seral habitat. Overall, the Willamette National Forest has 6,500 miles of roads, Gatchell said. Some is maintained but much is used intermittently or abandoned. The Forest, like others throughout the nation, is going to look at closing some of its system, Gatchell said. It's controversial. Some will say close more. Others will say close less. Over the next three to four years, individual districts will look at reducing their road systems, he said. Further up the drainage, a gate will close roads to vehicle traffic, reducing the risk of fire on CTC- managed lands. That would reduce the miles of road per square mile of property from six miles to four. The roads will remain open to foot traffic. Ideally, the Forest Service wants two miles of road maximum per square mile of forest, said Anita Leach, Cool Soda co-coordinator. The closure will be subject to a public comment period said Jon Meier, recreation coordinator. The concern is the risk of fire on federal land spreading to private timber. Fuel treatments and fire breaks lower on the drainage will help cut the fire danger also, Leach said. On the ridge tops, there is a possibility of wide thinning and trail development to create firebreaks. Continuing up the Soda Fork drainage, the tour stopped at one of two regeneration harvest sites, a total of about 20 acres of a 100- to 110-year-old stand regenerated after a fire. The logs would help pay for road projects, and the site would provide early seral habitat, something that the forest has started to lack. Early seral is what the Forest Service is looking for following a major disturbance, Leach said. A good part of the stand is destroyed but leaves some structure on the ground. Herbs and shrubs come back first. Until the canopy closes, it is considered early seral. Both stands are adjacent to CTC-managed land. The harvest projects are likely to be administratively appealed, said Ken Loree, Forest Products Manager with Sweet Home Ranger District. They shouldn't go to court if the district follows the law and process properly. Andy Geissler of the American Forest Resource Council estimated the land could produce $60,000 per acre, noting that it's OK for the Forest Service to make timber harvest a primary objective rather than a byproduct of its projects. The final stop on the tour was among bear grass, noble fir, huckleberry and other special forest products. The local Native American tribes are interested in using those resources, with roads near the bear grass to improve access for elderly members of the tribe. "The tribes are interested in reintroducing fire to this area and sites like this," Leach said. "There's a lot of cultural history up in this area." Developing special forest products could provide substantial revenue to the landowners, public and private. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest brings in between $400,000 and $1 million in revenue from special forest products, such as Photos by Sean C. Morgan U.S. Forest Service Willamette National Forest Public Affairs Specialist Jennifer Velez takes a photo above a repaired sidecast road. Anita Leach talks about a regeneration harvest planned for this area. bear grass and fir boughs, Loree said, but it's close to Mt. St. Helen's and it's closer to the large Portland-Vancouver market than the Willamette National Forest. "We believe we have great potential with this program - maybe not to the level of Gifford Pinchot," said Sweet Home District Ranger Cindy Glick. The Cool Soda planning phase is complete and now the Forest Service must begin its National Environmental Policy Act phase, developing environmental impact documents and taking them through a formal public comment and documentation period. That process will probably begin in the spring. For more information about the Cool Soda Planning Area or to view a draft of the proposal, visit the Sweet Home Ranger District, 4431 Hwy. 20, or call, (541) 367- 5168.