NAIL Response to New NTMP and FAQ's

San Jose Water Company Plans To 
Log The Los Gatos Creek Watershed


Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What’s going on?

The San Jose Water Company (SJWC) has resubmitted a Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) for 1,000 acres of redwood forest along 6 miles of the Los Gatos Creek Watershed stretching from Lexington Reservoir past Lake Elsman to Williams Reservoir. Additional logging will occur off  Thompson Road on the east side of Hiway 17. The plan, should it be approved, will allow for logging to occur in perpetuity – no matter who owns the land and who does the logging.  Citizens of Santa Clara County will be facing the repercussions of this decision for many decades. Community opposition has been very strong.  As of  late June, nearly 4,000 citizens have signed petitions in opposition to the plan. A citizens group, Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL) has been formed to fight the plan. Additional information about NAIL and the logging can be found at

Q: How many trees will be cut?

40% of the trees greater than 24” in diameter will be harvested according to the SJWC. The average redwood or Douglas Fir in the logging zone is 31” in diameter. Trees as large as 6 feet in diameter are planned to be cut.  However, the type of permit they are requesting allows them to cut 60% of the trees 18” or more in diameter. The plan allows for changes in the number of trees to be cut – without further public review. The logging will occur in perpetuity, so the number of trees cut could be different – within a year – or within 50 years.

Q: What about protecting the water?

Good question. According to SJWC documents, 100,000 people in Los Gatos, Campbell, Saratoga, Monte Sereno and San Jose obtain drinking water from intakes in Los Gatos Creek within the logging zone. This is in addition to residents of Chemeketa Park and Aldercroft Heights who also draw water from the creek. Commercial logging of this type is so incompatible with protection of drinking water that the largest municipalities on the west coast – San Francisco, Marin, the East Bay (EBMUD), Santa Cruz, Portland and Seattle forbid such activities. Here are the facts drawn from published sources:

EBMUD:"Charles Hardy, spokesman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, says logging is a "big no-no" on its watersheds for "obvious reasons." Uprooting trees loosens the soil and results in more runoff into water systems when it rains. The only tree-removal activities his company engages in are to clear paths for fire trucks and clean out the underbrush to maintain trails." 
San Jose Metro. 12.7.05
Marin Municipal Water District:"The Marin Municipal Water District manages 22,000 acres of watershed land and does not allow logging, in order to the keep the area as pristine as possible. The last time it removed any trees was in 1997. That was a small population of nonnative pine trees that infringed upon the native ecosystem. Spokesman Michael Swezy puts it simply: "An undisturbed watershed is going to yield better-quality water." San Jose Metro 12.7.05 
San Francisco Public Utilities District: "Critics of the logging plan say the company (SJWC) can reduce the fire risk by thinning trees instead of logging the forest. That is how the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission handles fire suppression in the 23,000-acre watershed around Crystal Springs Reservoir, said spokesman Tony Winnicker. "We do an annual survey of our lands, and selectively thin vegetation, especially in areas that are close to urban centers or homes and businesses," he said. "We selectively and strategically eliminate trees and clean some of the ground cover. That tends to be brush and eucalyptus trees, which are rapidly growing and extremely combustible." San Francisco Chronicle. 12.11.05

City of Seattle: "The Cedar River Watershed east of Seattle is a forested area of 90,346 acres. It’s been the region’s primary water supply for longer than a century, providing much of the clean water to more than 1.3 million residents of Seattle, Bellevue and other areas of King County in Washington State. The 50-year HCP, signed in April 2000, established the entire watershed as no-logging forest reserves. Commercial timber harvesting is barred and 40 percent of the area’s logging roads will be removed." 
National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northwest Regional Office website 
City of Portland Oregon: In 1996, The United States Senate adopted the Oregon Resources Conservation Act (ORCA), S.1662, which outlaws logging in the 100-square mile area around the Bull Run Reservoir, the chief source of drinking water for Portland's 800,000 residents. US Congressional Record 

Q. What about Lexington Reservoir – how will it be affected?

This NTMP proposes building many miles of new roads and skid trails and using tractors on unstable areas and highly erodable hillsides with slopes over 50%. Such actions will lead to increased erosion with more sediment entering waterways. This means that more sediment will flow into Lexington Reservoir – diminishing its capacity to store water in the future.  The reservoir has lost 1,000 acre feet of capacity in just the past 10 years. This trend will be accelerated by logging. Increased sediment will flow into Lexington for decades to come, reducing water capacity and flood control capability for future generations. Expenses related to decreased water availability or ongoing dredging of the reservoir will be passed on to consumers.

Q. What about fire danger?

Simply put, cutting the largest trees in a forest and leaving slash (essentially dried, stacked kindling) on the forest floor presents a large fire hazard. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board has studied this NTMP and has made the following comment in their official response to the California Department of Forestry. "The opening of a forest for light and regrowth will promote new ground and mid-canopy growth that leads to ladder fuel jumps into upper canopy catastrophic fire, which is not a desired effect for fire hazard reduction."

 Of note is the fact that in this NTMP SJWC has not stated any fire mitigation plans for the thousands of acres of fire-prone chaparral that they own adjacent to the redwood forest.

Q. What happens to the logging slash (debris)?

According to the NTMP, dried branches and twigs (slash) will not have to be reduced in height until April 1. That means that acres of forest will have piles of slash many feet high on the ground through the fire season. After April 1, 12 inches of slash will remain on the ground throughout the logging area. This 12” covering of twigs and branches will not be removed from the forest floor - ever. While SJWC plans to reduce slash within 200’ of adjacent homes (before the following April 1), new growth of flammable underbrush due to loss of canopy from harvested trees will grow up between harvests. 

Q: Will logging take place all at once?

Not according to what is in the current plan. The logging zone is divided into 9 separate units averaging approximately 100 acres each. SJWC has stated that they will only log one unit at a time, every other year – however, this NTMP allows them the option to log in more than one unit at a time. The deposition of increased sediment and organic materials into the water supply as well as increased fire danger adjacent to homes, schools and businesses will be present 12 months a year in perpetuity. 

Q. Will logging take place in the winter?

SJWC has requested special permission from the California Department of Forestry to perform logging operations (including the falling of trees and hauling adjacent to streams and on county roads) during the wintertime.

Q. How close will logging be to my property?

Logging will occur within 100 feet of the homes of hundreds of residents. Schools, day care centers and churches are also adjacent to the logging zone. The Chemeketa Park playground is even within the logging boundary. Logging will take place 300 yards from Loma Prieta Elementary School and 230 yards from the Building Blocks Pre-School located on Summit Road. A GoogleEarth depiction of the logging zone is available at  Residents can see their individual streets and homes and precisely measure the distance to the logging zone.

Q. How much noise is generated by logging?

The SJWC included a noise study in their NTMP. From as far as 1,000 feet away, chainsaws in the study generated a sustained level 52-58 decibels, a noise that exceeds the Santa Clara County Noise Ordinance of 50 decibels. From 200 feet away, chain saws in this study generated sustained levels of 66-68 decibels which, according to the NTMP, is louder than a noisy freeway heard from 100 yards away. The NTMP document even concedes that during logging operations trucks, tractors, loaders and other equipment will add to the noise generated by chainsaws. The study just measured the sound of a ‘revving’ chainsaw and did not measure the much louder sound a chainsaw generates when cutting down a tree.

Q. What about helicopter logging? How close will helicopter landing zones be to my property?

Helicopter logging is proposed on 25% of the land alongside Los Gatos Creek.  However, there is little to stop them from logging most of the property using helicopters, without notifying the public of such a change.  Large Chinook Helicopters will be used. According to the NTMP document, these helicopters generate 78-92 decibels from 600 feet away. According to the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), prolonged exposure to 90 decibels or more can lead to gradual hearing loss.  The NTMP states that some residences will be as close as 150 feet away from helicopter operations. One landing zone will be within 200 feet of Loma Prieta Avenue. Another will be 750 yards from the Building Blocks Day Care Center. 

Q. How close can these helicopters fly to my house?

Helicopters can fly within 500 feet of homes in sparsely populated areas according to the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA regulation 91.119d). 

Q. What about property values?

Home sellers will be obligated to disclose to potential buyers the existence of the NTMP and the presence of a logging operation on adjacent properties. The potential effect on property values could be quite large. 

Q. What routes will be used for hauling logs from the logging zone?

Some of the logs harvested will be transported via log trucks through the property on the lower portion of Wright’s Station Road onto a seasonal road on SJWC property to Morrill Road, and then on Summit Road to Highway 17 South. Log trucks from 2 harvest areas will travel on Old Santa Cruz Highway to State Highway 17 or from Aldercroft Heights Road across the Alma Bridge and onto Old Santa Cruz Highway. The logs from the Briggs Creek harvest area will be hauled onto lower Thompson Road to (R) on Black Road and then to State Highway 17. Loma Prieta Avenue to Summit Road and onto State Highway 17 may also be utilized as a haul route during the time of helicopter yarding operations. Approximately 8-12 loads will be hauled on any given day. Including return trips, there will be an average of one log truck on the road every twenty minutes to half hour during an eight hour day. 

 Q: Will the log trucks damage the roads?

One 80,000 lb. loaded log truck is equivalent to about 9,000 automobile trips. Heavy load hauling during wet, saturated winter conditions are known to cause extra road damage.  Even SJWC admits that road surfaces are more “vulnerable to damage that occurs during wet weather traffic”.  Yet, the plan allows for hauling logs during the Winter Period between October 15 – April 15. 

Q. Will log truck traffic be a risk to schoolchildren?

The NTMP includes a winter operating plan, including log hauling.  While SJWC claims that hauling is unlikely when school is in session, the plan allows for logging and hauling year round.  There is no mention in the plan that log hauling would be prohibited during school bus hours.  Rather we found the following, “Though each public segment of the haul route bears the potential for traffic problems, these traffic problems will likely occur most often during the morning and evening commute hours.” 

Q. What times will the logging occur?

Logging will commence at 8:00AM within 100 yards from a residence and at 7:00AM further than 100 yards from homes and continue till 7:00pm. It is common practice for CDF to allow a change in hours of operation without any public review.  If neighbors complain, then CDF may require the operator to change back. 

 Q. Won’t logging cause landslides?

The bulk of the logging zone is located along the notoriously active San Andreas Fault Zone.  According to the NTMP, on-the-ground conditions consist of extremely unstable slopes, steep “inner gorge” areas along seven tributaries, and numerous active landslides, including a 6+ acre slide below the Chemeketa Park neighborhood.  The plan notes large channel bank failure, watercourse flow already constricted by slide movement undercutting stream banks, recent bank failure in other locations, and notes that ‘future movement’ of some slides is very likely even during moderate storms.  Logging will be allowed on most of the slide areas, and tractor operations are also proposed on unstable areas and steep, highly erodable slopes with a gradient over 50%.  Skid trails often concentrate run-off leading to increased erosion and sometimes landsliding. Removal of canopy can reduce rainfall interception and increase runoff on landslides and steep slopes as well. 

Q. Won’t the logging affect endangered species?

The biological assessment in the NTMP is seriously deficient.  Sensitive species known to live in the biological assessment area (BAA) are not noted as such. The endangered Red-legged frog is known to exist in the watershed, and mitigations are proposed.  The plan also notes the existence of at east three osprey nests in the assessment area. However, many species of mammals and birds that are known to inhabit the BAA are not identified, and it is unclear whether the broad variety of wildlife species in the vicinity will be adequately protected.

Terry Clark
June 26, 2006