||Public supports no-logging option on Santa Cruz watershed lands -
Experts cite logging roads as major source of sediment in city water
by Betsy Herbert
The lush forest above the Loch Lomond reservoir plays an important role in protecting water quality for the City of Santa Cruz.
About 25 members of the public overwhelmingly supported the recommendations of a team of watershed experts, to end commercial logging on 3880 acres of city-owned watershed lands that serve as the source of drinking water for the City of Santa Cruz.
Stopping logging would be the first logical step for any option to protect water quality, said Tom Harvey, a resident of Boulder Creek.
Mitch Swanson, lead consultant for Swanson Hydrology, presented his teams findings from a two-year study of the forests around Loch Lomond, Zayante Creek, and Laguna Creek. The study showed that commercial logging, and especially forest roads, conflict with the City Councils primary goal to preserve water quality and quantity for protection of health and safety.
Roads alter drainage patterns and concentrate flows, said Swanson. The draft watershed management plan, compiled by Swansons team and commissioned by the City Council, cites logging roads as a major source of non-point source pollution. Commercial logging by the water department over the past 30 years has removed most of the old-growth trees, which are necessary to stabilize stream banks. The plan also stated that clear cutting of tan-oaks and madrones has increased fire danger and growth of invasive plant species, such as Scotch broom.
Members of the public also supported the plans recommendations to decommission logging roads and create preserves to restore old-growth, which produces the highest quality water, and reduces fire danger.
The citys logging policies for the past 30 years were guided by the principle of multiple use, which included timber harvest, recreation, watershed and wildlife habitat. But, according to Swanson, a sea change occurred in 1999, when the City Council defined a new primary goal for management of its watershed lands: to protect water quality.
A major point of discussion was how to assess the costs of past logging, such as the impacts of logging roads, and how to pay for the needed restoration work. Several people suggested conservation easements, volunteer work, and foundation grants as funding sources.
The Council-appointed Watershed Management Technical Advisory Task Force will make final watershed management recommendations to the City Council this fall.
Public comment is welcome. Address comments to the WMTATF, Santa Cruz City Water Department, 809 Center St., Santa Cruz, 95060. A review copy of the Watershed Resources Management Plan is available at the Santa Cruz Public Library.
Lead activist: Contact the Chair of the Forestry Committee
< back to all issues