OLYMPIA — The state panel responsible for regulating logging on Tuesday rebuffed a citizen’s demand for new rules aimed at improving public safety near timber harvests in landslide-prone areas.
“The petition was well-meaning. It was kind of premature because we have a number of different efforts ongoing to deal with the concerns he brought up,” Dave Somers, a Snohomish County Councilman and board member, said after the meeting.
Kavanaugh did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. But a key concern of his appears to have been undertaken by the board in May when it agreed to review existing rules for logging tracts with geology similar to the Oso area, where a massive mudslide March 22 killed 43 people. The body of one victim has not been recovered.
At that time the board also agreed to find ways to better identify the location of deposits of glacial sediment where deep-seated landslides could occur, have occurred or are at risk of recurring.
They also set out to better map where landslide-prone areas overlap with or are near areas where water soaks into the ground and recharges the aquifer. Some believe logging in such groundwater-recharge zones leads to greater water absorption, which destabilizes the soil, increasing the chance of a landslide.
Board members also are researching the cost of mapping more areas of the state at risk of landslides using the advanced technology known as LIDAR, as well as collecting maps already prepared by private landowners.
At that May meeting, Somers asked the board to impose a moratorium on logging in areas of glacial sediment in or near groundwater-recharge zones and on or near unstable slopes. The board backed off taking action amid concern it may lack legal authority.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson is now preparing a formal opinion on the extent of the Forest Practices Board’s authority to stop accepting and issuing permits for logging where unstable slopes create a potential for devastating landslides. He also will examine if state law empowers the panel to adopt emergency rules to achieve such a ban.
Ferguson has not indicated when he will release the opinion.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com