San Jose Water's FAQ's Revisited

San Jose Water’s FAQs Revisited

Further clarification of SJWC’s logging proposal

Prepared for NAIL by Jodi Frediani



This 1002 acre NTMP was filed by CDF on October 27, 2005.  The First Review produced eleven pages of questions (79) regarding items that need clarification.  The first question asks whether San Jose Water qualifies to file an NTMP since they own over 6000 acres.  If they own 2500 acres of timberland or more, they do not.


This response is an attempt to clarify some of the misconceptions that have arisen from SWJ’s FAQ Sheet and SJW’s various responses to concerns raised publicly by NAIL.


It appears that SJW’s Mr. Tang is not that familiar with the timber harvest review process and how the plan itself functions under the California Environmental Equality Act (CEQA) and the Forest Practice Rules.  I will try to address some of the misconceptions that are currently making the rounds.  I also encourage anyone interested to re-read the SJW FAQ very carefully. Much of the inconsistency in their responses are not lies, but are carefully worded statements that can be easily misleading.


Q3. But isn’t the forest pristine wilderness? 


It is important to recognize that SJW’s lands were clearcut in the late 1880’s and early 1900’s and also are criss-crossed by roads throughout portions of it. Therefore this is a ‘roaded’ second growth forest and not a ‘pristine wilderness’. 


However, SJW speaks of a dense stand of “young growth” trees which have grown up since the first harvests. While the term “young growth” is simply to differentiate from “old growth” to the uninitiated this can be interpreted as smaller second growth redwoods.  Interestingly, CDF First Review question #3 states that “the stand descriptions in the plan initially appear to meet the definition of Late Successional Forest. “ Functional charesticstics of late succession forests include large decadent trees, snags, and large down logs.”(pg 11 FPRs) This is considered the stage on the way to return of old growth forest type. The larger trees in this stand are over 100 years old. Any remnant old growth will be hundreds of years old.


Q4 What is an NTMP?


Their answer is full of lots of fancy language.


SJW states that the NTMP “requires sustainability”. The “S” word is one that means different things to different people. The industry definition usually means that long-term harvesting can be sustained.  Essentially, the Forest Practice Rules for this region, the 60/40 selection harvest rules (913.8a) are deemed by CDF to meet the criteria for “sustainability”.  Therefore, the real difference between an NTMP and a THP is that an NTMP is basically a permanent exemption from any further agency or public review for timber harvesting in perpetuity.


Q5  Does this permitting process require an EIR?


SJW says the NTMP addresses cumulative impacts, but the bulk of the scientific literature is in agreement that the CDF timber harvest review process does not adequately address cumulative impacts.


Q6  How can someone be allowed to do logging near my community?


Good question. In the mid 80’s the state (CDF) took over regulating timber harvest review after Big Creek Lumber urged the legislature to rescind local control.  Previous to the legislative change, counties had the authority to approve or disapprove logging plans.  In fact, a Santa Clara County plan near the Summit, which drew tons of opposition from neighbors and threatened to end logging in Santa Clara County, led to the move to have the State take over control of logging plan review and approval.


The Notice of Filing says that notices were mailed to 343 landowners within 300’ of the plan boundary.  This is essentially an industrial activity being planned in a residential neighborhood. Unfortunately, it is allowed under the FPRs, but clearly the intent of the NTMP legislation in the Z-Berg Nejedly Forest Practice Act of 1972 was for long-term timberland management inCalifornia’s forested areas, not in suburbia.


SJW says that applying for a timber harvest permit is not unlike applying for a building permit.  Actually, it is very unlike a building permit in that the plan submitter (SJW in this case) pays NO FEES to any of the reviewing agencies.  All of the Review Team members’ time is essentially paid for by the public. The only fee for an NTMP is the one charged to the public for purchase of a hard copy of the plan.


Oh yes, a small fee is due to DFG for needed stream alteration permits at certain watercourse crossings.


Q7  How many trees will be cut?


This is a bugaboo/numbers question.  These numbers can and have been manipulated multiple times.  We do not actually know how many trees will be cut.  Neither does SJW.


What we do know is that the plan allows for cutting the maximum of 60% of those conifers 18” diameter at breast height (dbh) and greater and 50% of the trees 12-18” dbh.  This is stated in Section II and Section III of the plan.  Mr. Tang keeps referring to the “intent” language under their proposed cutting prescriptions in Section III which says they will not cut more than 40% of the largest conifers, and less of the smaller ones.  But this language is not enforceable.


Essentially, SJW has kept all their legal options open, and when all is said and done, this plan as currently written allows them to cut the maximum number of conifers allowed by the rules. All other figures are just guesstimates of what may or may not happen over time. The plan also proposes cutting hardwoods, even though the Certified Engineering Geologist’s review took place with the understanding that hardwoods would not be included in management (pg 247) .


There is no guarantee that SJW will be the landowner in perpetuity (or even next year – they attempted a sale to Amercian Water just a couple of years ago), as there is no guarantee that their plans will not change over time.  Also, as written, the NTMP ‘intent language’ (stand tables) even allows for harvesting 60% of the larger trees in any given unit, or portion of any unit. If SJW really wanted to limit the number of trees they can harvest they would say so, consistently throughout the plan, not in one unenforceable section only.



For instance, Section II, item 14b says per CEG recommendation, “all harvest area west of Austrian Dam shall incorporate single tree selection maintaining 50% of existing stand greater than 12” dbh, except those damaged during operations.” That’s a little different than the 80% of trees greater than 12” that SJW keeps claiming they will leave. And the plan language allows for even less than 50% retention where there is damage.


SJW continues to assert that item  #14 Section II Silvicultural Method was just a reiteration of the FPRs, or “written to comply with the Forest Practice Rules”, and that the information on stand management is the correct answer.  That‘s not how it works.  A copy of the rules in effect when the plan is approved must be included as these will be the rules in effect for this plan on down the road.  CDF has asked for a $5 check for inclusion of the 2006 rule book.  Section I and II lays out the maximum harvest that will be allowed for this NTMP.


Q12 How long will you be logging next to my property?


Each separate harvest will occur during the late spring or summer and will take  approximately 6 weeks to complete.  This is really intent language-what SJW says they would like to do. In reality they have kept all their options open. They are not required to do winter operations, but they have chosen to keep this option on the table.


The plan has a very comprehensive Winter Operations plan, complete with a proposal to fell trees across Class II and III watercourses during the winter.  (This is a practice that is not allowed, unless justified and explained, and is rarely even proposed in the Santa Cruz Mountains.)  So, under the plan language logging may take place in the winter.  Operations could also take longer than 6 weeks per unit.  And, the way the plan is written, more than one unit could be harvested at a time, or harvesting could extend for more than one season.


Some homes will be at the boundary of two units and could see logging one year after the next, for an extended period of time, depending on individual circumstances.


Q16 Will this be a risk to schoolchildren?


“While schools are unlikely to be in session during operations, each school is notified and trucking is timed so as not to conflict with school bus schedules.”  The plan has included language that says truck drivers will be given school and school bus schedules (pg 104) “to assure safety of children that may be in route to or from schools located along the haul route.”  That is not the same as a prohibition on log hauling during school bus hours. They apparently have not chosen to limit truck log hauling hours.


SJW says that “schools are unlikely to be in session during operations”, yet again, they are leaving ALL their options open.


Q18 Will the log trucks damage the public roads?

The FAQ says that “log hauling typically occurs during the dry season when road surfaces are less vulnerable to the damage that occurs during wet weather traffic.” But the plan says, pg 12, that log hauling may occur during the winter period.


A report from the Congressional Office of Research has found that “The wear and tear from an 80,000 pound vehicle is equivalent to over 9,000 automobile trips.”


SJW does not agree to post a bond to ensure that road related damage will be addressed.  Saying a bond ”must” be posted to address road damage is quite different than saying it “shall” be posted. In fact, such bonds usually are limited to willful negligence and not “normal” wear and tear.


QQ 19 Logging on weekends/hours of operation


SJW continues to confuse the practices of Big Creek Lumber with the options allowed in their NTMP. It really does not make a hoot of difference what Big Creek does or does not do.  The plan is not tied to Big Creek conducting operations.  In fact, the LTO can be changed at a moments notice under a minor amendment.  And this plan, if approved, will be good in perpetuity. So what is important is WHAT THE PLAN ACTUALLY SAYS.  That is the only thing that is enforceable.


Again, SJW is keeping all their options open.  Remember that.  What they “intend” to do, and what they will be allowed to do are quite different. The language in the NTMP allows for harvesting from 7:00am to 7:00pm.  The plan even asks for log hauling on Columbus Day, rather than sticking to the strict rule which does not allow for operations and hauling on National Holidays, or weekends.  Yes, they have included a provision to restrict operations prior to 8:00am within 300’ of a residence.


Q20 SJW Roads


We are told that roads throughout the property will benefit form using modern day techniques to improve drainage and maintenance.  Since the plan mentions one internal road with a 1000’ gully running down it, maybe SJW finally plans to be a good land manager.  However, road maintenance is critical to clean water and should not need an NTMP for SJW, the largest private water purveyor in Santa Clara County, to decide to fix their road network, by increasing culvert size, repairing excessive gullying and more.


However, from SJW’s latest road winter grading project at the Alma Bridge intersection, it appears that they do not fully understand the basics of stream protection.  Grading in the WLPZ (riparian zone) after October 15 is either seriously frowned upon or considered illegal by most governmental agencies in California.  Creating ustable sidecast (piling loose fill on top of organic matter) sloping toward the stream is very bad management at that.


The black plastic ‘silt-fence’ placed at the bottom of the sidecast is inadequate to prevent slope failure during heavy rains and when soils become saturated.  Insloping the road to prevent surface runoff is also considered poor road management.  The loose soils should have been end-hauled to a location where they stood no chance of entering the stream.


Q 21 Won’t logging cause landslides?


Many other geologists do not agree with SJW’s certified engineering geologist (or the State’s geologists) that harvesting on unstable areas and active landslides will pose “no significant risk of accelerating or exacerbating land movement or sliding.


There are a number of large and small, active landslides in the plan area, some as close as 600’ downslope of people’s homes.  Logging is proposed on these slides. Who should determine the level of risk to the upslope homeowners??  What is “significant risk”? The NTMP clearly acknowledges that the plan is proposed along the San Andreas Fault zone which is already geologically unstable without additional human intervention. Some of these slides probably occurred, in part, as a result of the previous clear-cutting and other ‘legacy’ land use activities in the area. The area is also in a zone of high rainfall which can add to the already vulnerable site conditions. 


For instance, pg 12, Mitigation Point G7-7: “This is a secondary deep-seated translational landslide block located below the Chemeketa Park subdivision. A Special Treatment Zone (STZ) covering approximately 5.5 acres shall extend approximately 550 feet along Los Gatos Creek, between Ryland Dam and 100 feet northwest of the third Class III watercourse.  Within the STZ and where slopes exceed 70%, the harvest shall be restricted to redwood in groups , cutting no more than 1/3 of the trees in any group at any onetime.”  Which of course, means that where slopes are less than 70%, no restrictions will be in place.


Removal of stems (and canopy) from a moving slide mass reduces the amount of interception of raindrops, an important function of canopy to help reduce overland flow. Logging also causes surface disturbance, which can lead to increased rilling and concentration of runoff.


Q 22  The increased brush question


Removal of canopy allows for additional sunlight to hit the forest floor.  It is a well known fact that logging can increase the amount of brush, or ladder fuels, that grow and invade on and alongside landings, roads and openings from hardwood management, as well as in some redwood dominated areas.


The NTMP proposes hardwood management, harvesting tanoaks and madrones.  Page 6 states that “The objective of hardwood treatment would be to reduce canopy closure and allow more sunlight to reach the redwood regeneration to increase maximum sustained production of high quality timber products.  Hardwood site occupancy may be reduced with one or more of the following methods: falling and removal, falling and lopping, girdling, mastication or other appropriate treatments.”


Falling and lopping will leave dead hardwoods in place on the ground, and girdling will kill them and leave them standing. Both practices will increase dry fuel loads and, therefore, fire hazard.


Q 25 & 26 Helicopters


SJW assures us that FAA regs are very strict and do not allow helicopters to fly over residential houses. Here is info provided by a helicopter pilot:

    If the aircraft isn't normally certified by the FAA, then load operations over a "densely populated area" are prohibited (14 CFR 133.45(d)), but "densely populated" isn't defined as is generally taken to mean cities (eg, downtown San Jose) and is shown on aviation charts a particular way.  I can't imagine any area that logging could occur near by qualifying as densely populated, and we don't even know if the helicopter they are using is normally certified. Most of the regulations specific to the carrying of an external load (dangling logs) have to do with the certification, equipment, and pilot training requirements (14 CFR 133).

    There is no prohibition on overflight.  14 CFR 91.119 prescribes minimum altitudes for aircraft.  In short, in sparsely populated areas, except for the purpose of takeoff or landing, you need to remain 500ft away from any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
However, 14 CFR 91.119(d) exempts Helicopters "if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface". I had thought there was a prohibition on a helicopter carrying an external load from overflying structures not participating
in the lift operation, but I can't find any such reference in the regulation.


Q 27  Logging slash


This is actually pretty funny.  The plan was submitted only requiring that slash be lopped to the FPR required 30”. However, in what is clearly a concession to the expressed concerns of the neighbors, SJW has “pledged” to reduce slash to 18” inches.  Until the language in the plan is changed to reflect the 18”,  SJW’s pledge is no more enforceable by CDF, than a Girl Scout pledge to help the elderly.


SJW hasn’t included in the NTMP the fuel hazard reduction plan that they have ‘pledged’, but it says on page 24 that recommendations will be incorporated ‘prior to plan approval’. That could mean that at a minimum the public may have only 10 days to review that proposal.


Forest Canopy


This issue is found in SJW’s latest mailer to neighbors.  They state that invasive species will not establish themselves because the majority (80%) of the trees will remain.  One should not confuse the number of stems with the amount of canopy.  The larger the trees harvested, the more canopy reduction will occur.  The rules have certain requirements for canopy closure adjacent to streams, but canopy is often reduced to around 50% elsewhere in harvest areas. 75’ spacing between trees is allowed. Page 124 states that “Selection silviculture will supply a canopy coverage range from 40-60%....”


In fact, CDF First Review question # 5 says, “Given the harvest level necessary to generate an economically feasible helicopter operation and the prescribed canopy retention levels of 40-60% is it reasonable to expect 100% vegetative cover remaining post-harvest ( ref top of page 124)?”


Overall land management (from latest SJW mailing)


The best way for SJW to prepare a comprehensive timberland management plan that addresses the concerns of their thousands of upslope neighbors is to develop a Source Water Assessment Plan, with public involvement.  To do so would put this NTMP on hold, until the overall plan, with the primary focus of providing high quality drinking water that is adequately protected from possible contaminating activities (of which selective logging is one) is complete. The process would look at alternatives to road management, fire management, fish and wildlife protection, and forest health



Jodi Frediani

Executive Director

Citizens for Responsible Forest Management (CRFM)



Terry Clark
November 11, 2005