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City hires forestry consultants with goal to make $500,000 in timber cash

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Barry Sims and Scott Ferguson of Trout Mountain Forestry explain to the Scappoose City Council their approach to  attracting more bidders for clear-cutting a 30-acre tract of timber in the Gourlay Creek Watershed.The Scappoose City Council voted unanimously Monday, March 17, to authorize a revised bid request to clear-cut 30 acres of timber within the Gourlay Creek Watershed, as well as to accept a contract with a Portland-based forestry company to oversee the harvest.

The city received no offers for the initial bid request last May to clear cut the tract.

Trout Mountain Forestry helped the city revise the bid request to better attract mills and logging companies, and estimates the new plan could bring in about $500,000 for the city — roughly $60,000 more than initial estimates.

Mayor Scott Burge said money generated from the timber harvest would go into the city’s water budget. Those funds, he said, would not affect recent hikes to residential water rates.

The revised bid request eliminates the need for prospective logging companies to pay for all harvested timber upfront, removes areas from the map that would have been more difficult to harvest and allows for preserving older, larger trees within the tract.

Interim City Manager Don Otterman said the city will send out the request for bids this week with response deadline set for April 7 at 2 p.m. The bids will then be presented to the City Council that night for approval.

Otterman said he signed two $1,500 contracts with Trout Mountain Forestry earlier this month. One was for the company to review the timber tract and suggest changes to the perimeter of the harvest zone as well as the city’s bid documents. The second contract directed the company to put together new bid requests for the city and flag changes to the harvest area. Otterman

Otterman said Trout Mountain Forestry’s changes to the bid request will likely increase the harvest yield and allow the job to be accomplished within a shorter period of time.

Of the changes, Otterman said the most important was in not requiring prospective logging companies to pay the full amount of the timber up front. Rather, they will pay for the timber as it is harvested.

“Paying half a million up front was a problem for some of the companies,” Otterman said.

Otterman said the city also managed to alter the tract’s boundaries to be further away from Gourlay Creek and eliminated a section of the tract with a steep grade. He suggested these changes would make the harvest easier and thus more attractive to potential bidders.

Otterman said areas with steep terrain would have required advanced cable logging techniques to harvest.

“The costs are going to be less because of not needing the extra equipment,” Otterman said. “They also changed the perimeter to preserve some of the older growth timber so it will not be harvested.”

The city sought bids last spring to harvest the same tract, but it received no offers. Since the money that clear-cut would have generated never went into the city’s revenue stream, Scappoose entered the fiscal year with a $440,000 shortfall.

The hole in the city’s budget was also a major driver in its decision to incrementally raise monthly residential water rates by $15 per meter over the course of three years.

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