State shuts down Trillium logging
is asking for more control over land use outside the city
limits after finding out after the tree were down that Trillium
Corporation had been given permits to log over 500 acres
just outside the city limits, which could destabilize slopes
at Birch Point. We need more control and predictability
within our Urban Growth Area (UGA) because eventually it
will be a part of the city, said community and economic
development director Terry Galvin.
Between June and September Trillium got approval from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to log five tracts in the Semiahmoo South area, all with whimsical names from the work of John Steinbeck like Cannery, Tortilla Flats and Grape. Work started on the Cannery site, 142 acres, in July and is now complete. Roads are completed on the other four sites, comprising 364 acres, but minimal harvesting was completed when DNR issued stop work orders at all sites October 24, following an appeal of the final permit by neighbors concerned the project would exacerbate existing erosion problems. Administrative assistant Jan Daily confirmed the stop work orders had been issued but no one with the DNR was available to comment on why.
Trillium Forester Randy Bartelt said the company had decided to harvest timber on the land rather than follow the plan for a Semiahmoo South planned unit development approved for the site. Weve had several projects approved there in the past but those plans are now expired, he said. Right now the area is just being harvested. Development plans are a work in progress. He said the company had two reasons to clear the land now. Sales of the logs will generate revenue for the company and we are preparing the land for the possibility of future urban development.
Plans are to clear the area now, seed with native northwest grasses and plant a combination of conifers in the spring. Bartelt said 40 percent of the forested areas would be left as wildlife corridors and buffers to wetlands, which make up a fifth of the proposed Semiahmoo South planned unit development, according to a draft environmental impact statement issued in 1999.
Trillium has a conversion-option harvest plan from the county that allowed them to secure a class three forest practices permit from the DNR but not be subject to the six-year moratorium on development that usually goes with that permit. The only requirement from the county under that licensing option is adherence to critical areas regulations, said county land use division manager Roland Middleton. Unlike the more rigorous planned unit development (PUD) application process, the company is not required to submit detailed plans regarding the environmental, geologic and economic impacts of the project. Thats where Birch Point resident Lincoln Rutter said the system failed the local community. In a planned unit development everything is prescribed, when youre doing it as a tree farm nothing is required, he said. He and other Birch Point property owners have filed an appeal with state forest practices board to stop the project on the basis that its exacerbating erosion of the bluff by disturbing a hydrologically sensitive area. Water moves into the wetlands then moves horizontally and comes out at the bluff. Ruttle said the problem was exacerbated by the removal of stumps with backhoes, which the DNR allowed so Trillium could mow rather than apply herbicides by air. When youre pulling stumps in these soils you cause incredible erosion. That close to a wetland, you need serious mitigation. In addition, Rutter said there was no reason to not consider the Semiahmoo South PUD inactive, and Trillium should be required to stick to the conditions of the environmental impact statement for that project.
Bartelt acknowledged the stop work orders were issued in response to environmental concerns. The DNR has determined there may be a deep-seated landslide feature, he said, which could require further environmental review.
At the October 28 Blaine city council meeting Rutter encouraged city council to push for more involvement in all land use issues in the Blaine UGA, which includes Birch Point. Someday it will be part of the city and the impact is lasting. This cuts right to the heart of your ability to plan for the future, he said.
Galvin acknowledged the current agreement between the county and the city only covered some land uses in the Blaine UGA. Any development permit they need to come to the city but that doesnt apply to forestry, he said. Galvin said this was only one of several disconnects with the county that could jeopardize Blaines growth. The first thing we need to do here is improve communication and the county has invited us to engage in a discussion of countywide planning policies, he said.
The city will also work with Trillium to condition the halted project and future plans to clear an additional 200 acres within the city limits. Trillium didnt do anything wrong here, they just played by the rules they had, he said. Were trying to work with them so their development plans mesh with ours, and within the city we link clearing to development. We want to see plans.
Blaine mayor Dieter Schugt said the city needed to revise agreements with the county and state regarding consultation on projects in the UGA. All of a sudden here we dont have a say, he said. My concern is theyll let someone go into our wellhead protection area and cut all the trees down.
Rutter said they are raising funds for a legal defense fund that would fight to hold Trillium to high environmental and community protection standards, starting with the five projects now on hold. The thing is not to stop Trillium from developing the area but to have them do it in a responsible manner, he said. Were not really fighting Trillium but asking that the county and state reconsider how they do things. .