TRPA investigating logging incident |

TRPA investigating logging incident

An investigation is still under way concerning a forest-thinning project on property belonging to a North Shore government agency, but officials believe at least 30 large, protected trees were removed without permission, according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Kim Johnson, forester for TRPA, said the final tally of 30-inch-diameter trees should be finished Friday, and after that it could take as long as a few weeks to determine what kind of repercussions the Tahoe City Public Utility District and its contractor Menasha Corp. could face.

“It’s taking a long time, but we do consider it a really serious deal,” Johnson said.

TCPUD provides sewer and water service to customers from Dollar Hill to Emerald Bay. It also acts as the parks and recreation department for that area, providing bike paths and hiking trails for area residents and visitors.

The 110-acre project area borders Homewood Mountain Resort. The land, with the exception of hiking trails, is undisturbed forest and is open to the public. TCPUD hired Menasha, a Grass Valley-based timber land management operation, to thin the forest to reduce the wildfire hazard.

The over-snow tree removal happened in April. TRPA officials earlier this month said conditions of its permit, which allowed the work to be completed, were violated. TRPA has an old-growth ordinance that protects these types of trees, and workers needed permission from TRPA to cut them down.

Johnson Wednesday said she could not estimate what kind of fine or mitigation would be required of TCPUD and Menasha. However, both were responsible, she said.

Both TCPUD and Menasha are working with TRPA to resolve the issue.

The project, which was supposed to help move the wooded area into more of an old-growth type of forest, has drawn criticism from more than just TRPA. The League to Save Lake Tahoe, the oldest organization in the basin dedicated solely to protecting the area’s environment, has expressed concern.

The League’s Dave Roberts said he has visited the site and feels the contractors did the opposite of what they were supposed to. While removing the large trees, which could be 90 to 150 years old, workers left small and dead trees, ones which contribute more to wildfire hazard.

“It was the classic timber deal where you’re just thinking about the commercial aspect, taking the biggest trees,” Roberts said. “They didn’t do that forest any favors at all. You don’t have to be a forest expert to see what happened. They totally, flagrantly violated the old-growth ordinance.”

If the trees are 150 years old …

n Zachary Taylor was president

n California was entering the Union as the 31rst state

n the trees would be 1 year old when Herman Melville wrote “Moby Dick”

n the trees would be 10 years old when the pony express began

n the trees would be 119 years old when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon

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