Fox Spit residents argue over clearcut

"Thirty-seven Whidbey Shores and Fox Spit Road residents concerned about possible erosion and landslides associated with a recent Saratoga Road clearcut met last Thursday night to make certain that the landowner does everything he can to protect downslope properties.More than anything, those gathered at the Baby Island Saratoga Clubhouse wanted information about the 40-acre clearcut. Many people said they did not know the clearcut was happening and discovered it only after the trees had been felled. Meeting organizers handed out aerial photographs of the property -- which lies between Saratoga and Fox Spit roads -- and forestry and permitting information compiled by Clinton forestry consultant Elliott Menashee. Area resident Jim Adsley also helped update those gathered, reporting that the landowner -- Bellingham's Gordon Iverson -- plans to eventually cut a total of 65 acres in the area.Susan Cyr, one of organizers, said area residents should be worried about runoff from the clearcut.What happened in El Salvador could happen in our neighborhood, Cyr said, referring to the earthquake-spawned mudslides that killed hundreds of people in Central America two weeks ago. Uphill clearing was partially was blamed for the slides.While most of the people at the meeting seemed to agree that the clearcut is placing homes in peril, Whidbey Shores' Pat Loveless said there is little reason to worry. A member of the Whidbey Shores Homeowners Association board of trustees, Loveless said a replanting program proposed by Iverson as well as an upgraded drainage system to be installed by March should protect people living on top or below the steep Fox Spit/Whidbey Shores bluff. Iverson plans to begin planting a fir forest on his property next Monday, and will share the costs of increasing the capacity of an existing area drainage system.There is going to be a minimal amount of effect, Loveless said of the clearcut.Despite the reassurances, many people at the meeting were unhappy that they were not notified of the cut in time to submit comments to the permitting agency, the state Department of Natural Resources. Jim Adsley noted that at the very least, cutting in the middle of the rainy Whidbey Island winter was poor timing. Another man attending the meeting said that he is outraged that Island County has volunteered to pay for some of the drainage work necessary to divert runoff from the clearcut. County Engineer Lou Legatt said last week that the clearcut accelerated existing plans to add more drainage capacity to the Fox Spit area.Meeting moderators Karen Vanderbilt and Greg Cyr suggested that those gathered break up into task-oriented action groups to look into the clearcut and any upcoming timber harvests in the area. Cyr said one group should find out if the clearcut was done legally and if not, how Gordon Iverson might be forced to correct any shortfalls.Not everyone was enthusiastic about that plan. Fox Spit Road resident Deborah Eimers said those at the meeting should not sit in judgement of what a property owner does with his land.We have no right to tell him what he can do, Eimers said. Replanting on the clearcut property will take place on Monday and Tuesday. Gordon Iverson said he plans to plant about 15,000 fir seedlings on the land. "

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