Letter to Editor: Oregon Safe Waters Act HB 2656


Although I am aware of Tillamook County’s marriage to timber companies for most of its history, I believe we have come to a time when timber and water quality must come to terms. Currently the state legislature is debating HB 2656, the Oregon Safe Waters Act.
As described in the Statesman Journal: “Oregon lawmakers want to protect public drinking water sources by banning ‘type 3’ clear-cuts, pesticide and fertilizer applications, and new logging roads on private forestland in those watersheds.”
“The bill uses the federal definition of drinking water source boundaries, which together cover much of western Oregon.”
“The aim is to prevent disasters such as last year’s Detroit Lake algae bloom, which shut down drinking water supplies in the state Capital for more than a month.”

The Forest Practices that private timber companies operate under in Oregon are weaker in their restrictions concerning water quality than the regulations in Washington, California and Idaho.
The weaker regulations can end up posing risks to community’s water supplies, risks to fish runs in our rivers, and increase risks of landslides, wildfires and flooding.
“We do not have the same standards for forest practices our neighbors to the north and south have,” said Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie. “Some of (Oregon’s) big timber companies also do harvesting in those states.” If the timber companies are already complying in those three states, they can certainly do so in Oregon.
Sarah Deumling, of Polk County’s Zena Forest Products, said her family has been practicing commercial forestry that would meet the requirements of the bill since 1987. “Such a change in forest management would make Oregon truly a model of sustainable forestry and a wise state government would do all they can to help folks make the change,” Deumling said.
And some of the state’s largest private timber owners, including Weyerhaeuser, Hampton Lumber, Stimson Lumber and Starker Forests, are fighting the proposal. They say private forest owners already are good stewards of their land. Status quo is not really going to cut it if we consider the algae blooms, increased fire dangers with basically each year getting warmer and warmer, and drought becoming commonplace in Oregon. Our commitment needs to be to respond responsibly to the changes we are experiencing, not continue like nothing is changing here.
“This bill would have devastating financial consequences for private forestland owners large and small and certainly for us here at Starker Forests,” said Gary Springer, a forester for the Benton County company. Maybe those costs of change reflect the true cost of doing business in our current, more challenging environment.
Violation of the new restrictions would be a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $6,250, 364 days imprisonment, or both.
Furthermore, this bill would help clean up our drinking water without shrinking our forest work force while the Oregon Forest Carbon Incentives Act would actually create MORE jobs in rural areas by shifting the $300 million per year in subsidies Oregon taxpayers are doling out to Big Timber toward more sustainable forest management practices. It takes more timber workers on the land, not less, to harvest timber sustainably.
More than 50 people signed up to testify during a public hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon. Many did not get a chance to speak. As a result, the committee will continue to accept written testimony through March 21. Please write to your Representative* in support of HB 2656.

Randall Koch, Neskowin

*Oregon House Representatives for the area are – or go to https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/FindYourLegislator/leg-districts.html
District 32 (Clatsop & North/Central Tillamook Counties) – Representative Tiffiny Mitchell
Phone: 503-986-1432
Address: 900 Court St NE, H-285, Salem, OR, 97301

District 10 (South Tillamook & Lincoln Counties)
Representative David Gomberg
Phone: 503-986-1410
Address: 900 Court St NE, H-471, Salem, OR, 97301