louis martin
cns news & features

California North Coast--

The key to many current problems can be traced to the past. In the case of salmon habitat degradation, that rule holds soundly.

Said Bill Matson, spokesperson for the Salmon Disaster Relief Restoration Program, "The problem isn't the current roads. As the forest engineers are building roads today, they are doing a better job." The problem, said Matson, are old roads that were build as much as 100 years ago.

The biggest damage is caused at stream crossings and at landings for logging operations. The damage, according to Matson, can be "awesome."

In the 1920s and before, logs were often floated down stream beds to move them out of the forest to mill sites. Sometimes they were moved down a stream by damming up the stream, then blowing up the dam with dynamite to float the logs down hill. Another method was to created a "corduroy highway" by laying fixed logs in the bottom of a stream bed so that saw logs could be skidded down stream over them.

The damage from such practices is still evident, said Matson. "We find, for instance, that landings that were built in stream crossings with logs laid in the stream, and then covered over, are still there and plugging up arteries to the creeks." As a result, in some places the water runs underground. And sometimes, as in flood years, the water is blown out; "causing tremendous amounts of sediment to go down, plugging up the mouth of the stream, and preventing any movement up the tributary because it's so gravelled in."

Matson called these old problems that are going to take time to fix. But in some cases, he said, the problems are not fixable.

In a major restoration project in Graham Gulch off Fresh Water Creek in Humbolt county, 4-foot logs that had been cut by axe line the bottom of the creek. The problem in Graham Gulch has been bank stabilization. Old logs and other debris in the bottom of the creek have been hauled out and spread on banks to stabilize them.

A major problem is crossings that are designed to handle only normal water flow. Sediment builds up over the years, then is blow out in major storms, and holes can develop in nearby roads. "I've seen holes 20-feet deep," said Matson. "You've got to be careful walking across these things because you could fall in a hole."

The work by the Salmon Disaster Relief Restoration Program is being carried out on private lands, and the cooperation of private landowners such as Pacific Lumber, Simpson, and Miller-Rellim has been "excellent," said Matson, with the exception of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation.

"The only privately owned property we cannot get on so far has been Louisiana-Pacific," said Matson.

Matson is a biologist with a degree in fisheries and a "displaced" salmon fisherman who is now employed in the restoration project.



Return to News Page?

Return to Main Page?