Letter to the Los Gatos Weekly - Sept 1

This was sent September 1 by Terry Clark. It is here so that other people can read this letter should they not have access to the Los Gatos Weekly Times.


Patricia Boswell

This is the text version of the letter...
San Jose Water Company, with the assistance of Big Creek Lumber Company of Davenport, California has prepared a Non-industrial Timber Management Plan on 1000 acres of SJWC’s forested watershed lands in the mountains above Los Gatos. They have published a Notice of Intent to Harvest in the San Jose Mercury and it is expected that the NTMP will be submitted to CDF shortly. The watershed acres are adjacent to the larger residential communities of Oakmont, Aldercroft Heights, Chemeketa Park, Call of the Wild, Summit Road and Loma Prieta Road, as well as numerous smaller neighborhoods on private roads, all in the 95033 Los Gatos zip code area.

Directly affected are 4000 households and an estimated population of 10,000 citizens. The proposed logging would take place in the watersupply watershed of these communities, as well as upstream from Lexington Reservoir which serves the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Secondarily affected are residents of Los Gatos and San Jose who live downstream from the proposed logging, and purchase water from San Jose Water Company.

An NTMP is similar to a timber harvest plan, but is larger in scope and active in perpetuity, not just for a specified period of time. Once begun, the area could be logged forever. The plan will undergo review by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) which will act as the lead agency. The review could take as little as 45 days. The Department of Fish and Game, the California Geological Survey, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the County are expected to participate as members of the review team, acting in an advisory capacity. Other agencies, such as local water districts, may participate as well.

Information released to the public by SJWC and Big Creek, has caused citizens of the affected communities to have major concerns about the logging proposal:

1. Increased Fire Risk: SJWC’s selective logging plan to remove 40% of the largest trees (redwoods and Douglas fir,) while leaving untouched the dead oaks (Sudden Oak Death trees,) broom and other underbrush, will, we believe, increase fire risks for all residents. Studies done by the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress, and other scientists and fire ecologists show that fire risks may increase when only the larger trees are removed.

2. Impacts to Water Quality: Any commercial logging activity in the fragile and steep sloped areas on SJWC’s watershed land will have the potential to put silt into the streams, result in mud slides, and adversely affect the water supply of local residents. The proposed long-term NTMP will most likely require an extensive road-network with numerous culvert crossings. All have the potential to deliver sediment to Los Gatos Creek and the Lexington Reservoir. Drive Highway 17 during the rainy season when silt constantly washes across the road and understand how fragile the slopes are. Residents may also recall the structural failure and required re-engineering of the newly-installed Bear Creek overpass some years back when Cal Trans engineers were expensively surprised by the effect that water drainage and unanticipated slope failure had on cleared land.

3. Change in Forest Ecosystem: Without question, turning the watersupply watershed from a forest into a profit-generating tree farm will financially benefit a corporation responsible for safeguarding the watershed. This land contains 115+ year old trees, some as large as 7 feet in diameter. Logging will negatively change the environmental character of our mountain community. The impact to nesting osprey and the population of beavers, bobcat, mountain lion, coyote and deer will be serious. With their habitat disturbed, many of these animals will migrate to other open space and feeding grounds, including gardens, back yards and residential neighborhoods.

4. Quality of Life and Noise Impacts: Big Creek proposes running a logging operation 5 days a week starting at 7:00 in the morning in the midst of a large, residential area. Helicopters and chain saws will be operating 9 hours a day, ending at 4:00PM. Noise pollution is a high concern. A helicopter hovering at 500 feet generates 100 decibels of sound, a chain saw generates 125 decibels, while a jet plane generates 120 decibels. The degradation of quality of life and resultant lowering of property values will be enormous for thousands of people.

5. Incompatible with Public Open Space and Residential Neighborhoods: The recent purchase of the surrounding Sierra Azul and Bear Creek properties and their conversion into public park lands is inconsistent with the watershed forest lands being converted into an active and ongoing logging venture. Adding the SJWC lands to the Sierra Azul and Bear Creek Preserve as an alternative to logging would help protect the Los Gatos to Summit Rd greenbelt as it now exists, protecting our environmental community, our water supply and the stunning forested hills that surround the town of Los Gatos.

6. Impact to roads: The wear, tear and increased traffic on county maintained roads by heavy logging trucks will increase repair costs on our local roads. The opportunity sharply rises for traffic fatalities and worsening traffic congestion as 80,000 pound logging trucks travel our local, 2-lane roads and merge onto Highway 17 at both Summit and Bear Creek. The wear and tear from an 80,000 lb vehicle is equivalent to over 9,000 automobile trips according to a report from the Congressional Office of Research.

Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging, NAIL, was formed by local residents to disseminate information about the logging proposal. NAIL will be sponsoring public meetings to foster discussion and educate the public about the fire, water and geological issues around this proposal. A public meeting is currently scheduled for Sunday, September 11th, at Lexington School, 19700 Old Santa Cruz Highway, at 12:00 PM.

Terry Clark is a member of the NAIL steering committee and a resident of the Aldercroft Heights community.

Patricia Boswell
September 1, 2005