ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL STUDY SESSION
Wednesday, March 5, 2003 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 2:02p.m.
City Council: Mayor DeBoer and Councilors Amarotico, Hartzell, Jackson, Laws, and Hearn.
Staff: City Administrator Gino Grimaldi, Fire Chief Keith Woodley.
Forest Lands Commission: Frank Betlejewski, Elizabeth Crosson, Jo Anne Eggers, and Bill Robertson (Chair)
Other: Marty Main, Contract Forester.
1. Presentation by the Forest Lands Commission.
Commissioner Bill Robertson made introductions and gave background information on the Forest Lands Commission and the Commission's proposed Forest Lands Restoration Project, Phase II. He explained that the Commission has already invested a couple of thousand hours into the project and gave an overview of things that have been done to date, current conditions, and proposed a start date of November 2003. He stated that the Forest Lands Commission is interested in public input on the project.
Commissioner Frank Betlejewski spoke of his background and qualifications. He reported on the history of fire in Ashland's watershed, noting that the original recommended management for that area was for grazing. Madrone and pine were the primary species of trees which means that fire went through that area frequently. He explained that since that time three to nine fire cycles have been missed which has resulted in an increase in trees, and noted that tree mortality is increased due to the stress of the trees filling up their growing space. Insects are attacking the stressed trees and dead trees are accumulating.
Betlejewski recommended that the City engage in proactive management verse reactive management of this area. He explained that this would allow the choosing of where and when to burn and the conditions of the burn. People and equipment could be planned for and options could be chosen. He gave an example of a recent fire where fire fueled by unmanaged understory fuels was stopped when it reached an area of managed forest.
It was emphasized that according to the Plan, "No trees will be removed simply to enhance the financials of this restoration project."
Commissioner Joanne Eggers spoke regarding the financials of the proposed Plan, explaining that the general proposal needs to be reviewed before financial numbers can be generated. Doing the work that needs to be done may cost more than what is generated. She explained that the economics of this plan include ecosystem values in addition to financial considerations. Some ecosystem services noted were water, soil building, and clean air. The project will use constraints so that these ecosystem services will not be damaged by the project activities.
Commissioner Elizabeth Crossen reported that the Commission is interested in public outreach, explaining that it is time for the public to become acquainted with the project. She suggested the Commission could facilitate educational field trips, noting that one such trip is scheduled for April 5th. She explained that after public input the Commission would go back to the proposal and integrate public comment. She noted that the US Forest Service is going through a similar process, but on a larger scale.
It was noted that the project is limited in timeline by fire seasons and that November/December would be a good time for the project. It was clarified that this project is proposed for ecological reasons, and not financial ones, and that common ground could be found between opposing positions in that some things need to happen to protect the watershed. Each area will be treated specifically. Concern was expressed over the extent of the logging and what kind of trees would be left at the end.
Contract Forester Marty Main noted that the lands that the City is responsible for are key lands from a wildfire management perspective. The City has an important role in terms of protecting against fire. He noted that the City is a private landowner and that the Oregon Forest Practices Act requires that certain things be done when a timber harvest is conducted. The City is on top of this.
Council noted that the advantage to this plan is in the damage proofing of the watershed from a disastrous fire. Concern was expressed over project costs and potential ways of proceeding with the project. It was clarified that the Commission first needs to know what will be done and where it will be done, and clarified that the money available would be put to the area where it will give the most value. Priorities were noted as water quality and quantity. It was noted that this is a unique situation that involves a wide diversity of views and that technical aspects of the project are important and lead to differing conclusions.
It was noted that the Jacksonville Woodlands Association acquired grant funds. The Commission asked for Council assistance obtaining grant funds, noting that sources of grants would need to be identified.
The public process was discussed. It was suggested that public workshops be scheduled to allow public input on the plan, the issues, and the goals. The Council favored the Commission's involvement in this due to their knowledge and experience. It was felt that public hearings would not accomplish anything, and that workshops would be better.
Eric Navickus/711 Faith Avenue/Spoke to the issue and gave a history of the area in regards to fire management and logging that has occurred over time. He explained that before 1955 the watershed was intact. From 1955 to 1969 the Forest Service logged in the name of fire reduction. By the late 1960's the City experienced water sedimentation due to the clear cutting. In the early 1990's helicopter logging was done and fuel breaks, meant to protect the watershed from fires from the city, were constructed.
He felt that fire does not require site specific management and that surface disturbance impacts water quality and soils. He felt that this project would entail extreme costs to the City and stress on habitat. He opposed helicopter logging.
The Council questioned Navickus on his views of the beetle infestation. Navickas responded that disease and insect infestation play an ecological role in creating diversity in the landscape and that he felt that insect infestation is normal and healthy. Council noted that the Commission is aiming for forest health and that a balance must be found.
Joseph Powell/Indian Memorial Road/Spoke against helicopter logging and the removal of large diameter trees. He felt that large diameter trees (12 inches and up) make waterways and hillsides cooler, and that warmer conditions result in bacteria in the water supply. He felt that insect infestation could be controlled through under-burning, and that the mistletoe problem would be taken care of when the canopy grows back.
Eggers felt that the Commission has done as good a job as they can do at this point and asked that the Council put the issue out for public review, and then the Commission could address the issues raised by the public. DeBoer noted that this Commission is one of the most balanced ones he has seen. It was noted that there is no industry view on the Commission. Laws requested that a maximum figure be given in order for the Council to have some idea of the money involved in the project. It was suggested that Fire Chief Woodley might be the person to ask for this.
It was clarified that Staff would schedule and advertise public workshop sessions, and then the results of the sessions would go to the Forest Lands Commission, who would then bring a final proposal to the Council. City Administrator Gino Grimaldi noted that he would coordinate the scheduling with department heads.
It was noted that the Forest Lands Restoration Project draft plan is available for public viewing on the City's website.
Council directed that the possibilities of obtaining Federal grant monies be investigated, noting that the City needs to make use of whatever resources might be available.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:42 p.m.
Jan Brunelle, Assistant to the City Recorder.
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