|RWA comes to agreement to protect water source posted on 05/01/2021|
In an email dated Monday, April 26 to the board of directors
of the Rhododendron Water Association (RWA), board president Steve Graeper
announced an agreement had been reached with Chilton Lumber to preserve a
buffer zone on both sides of Henry Creek on property the lumber company
acquired earlier this year. The zone includes a 150-foot “no touch” buffer on
the south side of the creek in the 150-acre parcel and a complete no harvest
area on the north side of the creek in the parcel.
The agreement, which cost the RWA $175,000 and was pending
signatures at press time, will be written into the deed for the parcel and last
“I’m much more positive than I was two weeks ago,” Graeper
told The Mountain Times, noting that the lumber company had taken a harder line
early in the process. He added that the result was a, “Fairly reasonable final
outcome,” and credited state officials and environmental groups to helping
bring Chilton Lumber to the negotiating table.
In an email dated April 10, Graeper outlined the situation
to the board, noting that Chilton Lumber intended to clear-cut the property and
with current guidelines and Henry Creek’s designation as a small type “F”
stream, the “No Cut Zone” could be as narrow as ten feet.
That buffer would impact the turbidity (the amount of
suspended solids) in the stream, possibly leading to periodic boil water
notices or worse.
“If the private property is clear-cut, the turbidity levels
in Henry Creek will increase to a point we will not be able to filter out the
impurities or Henry Creek could go underground and Rhododendron could possibly
lose its sole source of clean safe drinking water to over 1,000 residents,”
Graeper explained in the earlier email, citing a similar situation with the
Corbett Water District, which lost the South Fork of Gordon Creek as a water
source due to similar circumstances. “Unlike Corbett, which has the North Fork of
Gordon Creek as an alternate water source, Rhododendron has no alternate
Graeper added that logging on the property could begin as
early as May 1, noting how the price of timber is at an all-time high plus the
need for harvesting the lumber to take place before fire danger in the area
reaches a critical point that precludes logging.
The land is one of two privately held parcels, totaling 230
acres, in the RWA watershed, while the majority of the watershed is in the Mount
Hood National Forest.
Graeper told The Mountain Times that the RWA has 365 members
and serves approximately 1,000 people. He noted that when he first became
president, he made a promise to never have a special assessment added to the
“I’m not going to do that to our members,” he said, noting
that he is exploring a number of avenues to find funding for the agreement.
“I’m just trying to continue to maintain the clean, fresh, state-award winning
best tasting water to our members.”
He added that the RWA is one of 58 water systems in the
Mountain community, stretching from Government Camp to Alder Creek, and just
three of them, including the RWA, are surface water systems.
All others are groundwater systems, which are not impacted
by logging practices.
“We are unique upon the mountain in the fact that our
watershed is so vulnerable,” Graeper said.
By Garth Guibord/MT