Local News

Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 06:00 AM

Bear Valley residents up in arms over timber harvest

More than 50 residents of Bear Valley Springs gathered at the community service district's latest board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14, to air grievances over a logging project being carried out by Bear Mountain Ranch owner Charles Abel.

Residents raised concerns not only about increased traffic along Deertrail Drive, but potential road damages rendered by the 80,000 pound logging trucks that will be used to complete the project.

The logging project is part of an larger fire reduction plan to remove a number of dead Geoffrey Pine and White Fir trees and other dead foliage that could be fodder for wildfires -- from 1,250 acres of the total 5,000 acres that make up the ranch. The project was approved by the State of California this September.

Bear Mountain Ranch has not been logged in 80 years.

According to the contract drafted by the board of directors, the logging trucks would be permitted to make 10 round trips per workday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., starting Dec. 1 through Nov. 31, 2014.

"You really need to figure out, first of all, what these roads were designed for. I doubt very much that they were designed for 80,000 pound logging trucks," one resident said, addressing the board.

Furthermore, the agreement states that "Any immediate damage to the roadways caused by Grantee's use of the Access Easement during the Term of the Agreement, such as potholes, shall be repaired by Grantor, the cost of which shall by fully reimbursed by Grantee."

However, some board members are concerned what exactly those costs will be, and how they will hold Abel responsible for certain damages.

"We cannot afford for anything to go unrecognized in this contract," a resident said to the board.

According to board Vice President Bill Mason, CalFire, the state agency which approved the Timber Harvest Plan in September, requires that Abel restore the road back to the condition it was in prior to the project, or "better."

Much of Deetrail Drive is already in poor condition, according to an assessment presented by Superintendent of Public Works Larry Tuma.

Members of the board struggled to decide with whether they should have Abel restore the road to its current condition, or have him pay a fraction of a comprehensive renovation, which would cost around $448,000, according to Tuma's report.

Vice President Bill Mason said "I don't think its fair to ask him for 458 [thousand]. Is it is fair to ask him for $50,000, $100,000, $25,000? I think that's what the board has to weigh in on."

According to General Manager Jeff Hodge, the final amount agreed on by the board after the meeting was $60,000.

Although many contested Abel's right to access the roads in Bear Valley Springs, board members noted that the rancher owns 1200 acres within the boundaries of Bear Valley Springs, and therefore is within his rights to carry out the project.

Abel declined to comment at this time.

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