Monday, August 13, 2012

A Few More Notes Lake Whatcom Reconveyance

Some of the folks opposed to the Lake Whatcom reconveyance have been raising the issue of loss of commercial forest land. They touch on a number of other factors as well including revenue loss from the loss of timber harvest. I did a previous post on this issue lake-whatcom-forest-reserve-park-.on-base referencing a Department of Natural Resource generated map of hazardous slopes and required stream buffers as well as access limitations. The short answer of this exercise is that though the park proposal is approximately 8,900 acres, nowhere near that amount of land is available for timber harvest under State law.

Besides the DNR map, LiDAR imagery of portions of the proposed park show the problems of timber harvests in parts of the proposed Lake Whatcom Forest Reserve Park. 

LiDAR image of Smith Creek

The Smith Creek makes up nearly half of the proposed park on the east side of the lake. The drainage is predominated by deeply incised streams with very steep slopes most of which are susceptible to debris flows if disturbed. And even the stable drainages are still required to be buffered from harvest under the State Law that set up the forest plan for the Lake Whatcom watershed. Hence, very little timber harvest can take place within this stream watershed.

Another smaller drainage further south in the above image presents much the same problem. There is a slope area between Smith Creek and the south drainage that could be harvested under the Landscape Plan and in fact two harvests took place on the that slope in past 5 years. There was a small landslide that took place just below one of the harvests afterwards during a low elevation rain on snow event.  

So yes, some forest land will be taken out of standard forest practice production, but that number is far less than 8,900 acres (I have estimated 2,200 acres). Likewise revenue generation should be based, not on every acre being harvested, but on the smaller number. Furthermore, in order to access all of the timber within the proposed reconveyance area will require approximately 22 miles of new roads in the watershed in order to access the trees.

This last bit on roads should cause some pause. It is the equivalent of approximately 35 acres of impervious surface added to the watershed. This is the equivalent of the impervious surface created from 350 acres of rural development if each home used the maximum allowable impervious surface area. 

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