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City hopes for big return on timber harvest

It didn’t take the Scappoose City Council long to approve the harvest of 30 acres of forestland, but there will likely be further discussion about where the money from the timber sale will go.

City Forester Jay Worley estimates this year’s sale could bring in approximately $440,000. Profits from a city of Scappoose timber harvest have historically gone to the city’s water fund, said City Manager Jon Hanken.

Councilor Donna Gedlich asked if all the money had to go to the water fund, or could it go somewhere else — for instance, to the general fund, to defray rising utility costs that have led the city to consider substantially raising residents’ water rates.

“This isn’t going to solve the problem,” Hanken told her, adding that deferred maintenance and the debt service on utility facilities are the driving forces behind the proposed increase.

“Those are your big issues,” he said.

The discussion, however, will likely continue as the city progresses in the budget planning process, he said.

In a memo to the council, Hanken recommended the money go to the city’s water fund to help rehabilitate the city’s Dutch Canyon well, repair a diversion pipe on the South Fork Dam and clean water impoundment areas behind Gourlay and South Fork dams.

Worley identified 90 acres of harvestable timber. The need to harvest is made more urgent by the fact that in the sections Worley surveyed, the trees are approaching an “oversize” condition, meaning they are between 45 and 100 years old with their trunks exceeding 28 inches in diameter. Hanken said most modern-day mills can’t handle these larger logs and will not buy them.

Also, many of the trees are beginning to show signs of fungal disease in the form of “conks” — large, mushroom-like growths that cause the wood in a tree’s trunk to slowly decay.

The 30-acre section Worley identified is located in the city’s 320-acre Gourlay Creek Watershed tract in Scappoose.

“It’s — yeah, it’s a clear cut,” he said, but added that such a cut would be necessary to curtail the spread of the fungal disease. The last clear cut the city made has been successfully replanted, he said.

The harvest will likely take place in early summer, Worley said.

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