Forest logging roads have long been identified as a significant source of sediment delivery to streams and rivers. Forest roads in Northwest California are also known to increase the likelihood of slope instability and landslides. On the north and central coasts of California, fine sediment generated from forest roads, skid trails, landings and watercourse crossings has been identified as a significant factor impairing the growth and survival rates of salmon and steelhead species. Improvements to the design, construction, maintenance and monitoring of roads and related infrastructure are necessary and long-overdue.
The California Board of Forestry is considering adopting new rules to address the impacts of private forestland roads water quality and salmon and steelhead species. The so-called “Road Rules 2011” package currently under consideration in Sacramento is largely prescriptive in nature, creating a new set of private forestland road regulations while reorganizing the Forest Practice Rules to catalogue road-related rules into one section.
The “Road Rules 2011” package aims to restrict log hauling and heavy equipment use on roads that are not hydrologically disconnected from receiving watercourses of the State. The rules also seek to restrict log hauling and other heavy equipment use on roads that do not exhibit a stable operating surface. The “Road Rules 2011” package also would create a new standard for evaluating the significance of sediment delivery from roads and road-related infrastructure. Finally, the “Road Rules 2011” package would create standards for design, construction, maintenance and monitoring of roads and related infrastructure.
The “Road Rules 2011” package represents a significant and long-overdue step forward in addressing the impacts of roads, skid trails, landings, crossings and crossing approaches on water quality through necessary mitigation and minimization of sediment impacts. However, the “Road Rules 2011” package is substantially weakened by inclusion of modifier language, exceptions and alternative practices. Furthermore, the “Road Rules 2011” often fail to require simple precautionary measures. An example of this is that the rules would not require roads used for log hauling during the winter period to be rocked in all cases. Another example of this is that the rules do not require rocking of watercourse crossing approaches while such roads are in use in all instances.
EPIC will continue to engage with the Board of Forestry and encourage the Board to improve the proposed “Road Rules 2011” package. The public comment period on the “Road Rules 2011” package is Monday March 26th. To review and comment on these rules, please see: http://www.bof.fire.ca.gov/