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Proposed Project in Six Rivers National Forest Threatens Humboldt County Water Supply

Updated: Dec 16, 2022


Recent logging within the August Complex on the Mad River Ranger District. Image from Google Earth.

A majority of Humboldt County residents, 94,000 people, get their drinking water from the Mad River, but few are aware of plans by the Six Rivers National Forest to log nearly 10,000 acres in the headwaters. The Mad River is already listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act because of excess sediment, yet the Forest Service wants to push river tributaries over the “threshold of concern”. EPIC and allies recently objected to the ill-conceived Mad River August Complex “Restoration” project.


There is no doubt the high intensity fire effects of the 2020 August Complex completely altered the headwaters of the Mad River and the surrounding forests. The Gigafire burned over one million acres, destroyed thousands of structures and took 31 lives. The fire impacted much of the transportation system on the Mad River Ranger District, yet rather than prioritize the removal of hazard trees to the most strategic and well used roads for public safety, the district included miles of rarely used dead end spur roads. It also expanded the project to include over an additional 1,000 acres of “salvage” logging. In total, the project proposes nearly 3,500 acres of ground-based commercial logging in forests that are already beginning to recover.


A large part of the project would focus on the removal of small diameter trees, but the claimed need of economic recovery from logging larger trees is debatable. By its own measure, the agency expects only $13,000 in return for pushing multiple creeks and rivers over the threshold of concern. The project would remove nearly 400 acres of the little habitat that remains for the Northern spotted owl and has a high likelihood of spreading invasive plants across entire watersheds.


Arcata, Eureka, Blue Lake and McKinleyville residents should be concerned. The headwaters of the Mad River were dammed to make Ruth Lake, our municipal water supply and the source of our drinking water. While most of the water comes more directly from wells, a large storm event in addition to the thousands of acres of ground disturbance in this highly sensitive burned area could be disastrous to our water source. The adverse effects to water quality are simply not worth the risk.


To voice your concerns, call or email the acting SRNF Deputy Forest Supervisor, Kari Otto, at Kari.otto@usda.gov, 530-410-1703 (cell) or 530-226-2522 (office). There is no official public comment period open, and EPIC is currently waiting to have a meeting with the regional USFS office and Forest Supervisor. More updates to come.

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