The Snohomish County Council is supporting the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ moving forward with the Singletary timber sale.
An unscheduled resolution was brought up for a vote at the county council’s meeting on Wednesday, March 21. Councilmember Sam Low said the costs of completing the conveyance were too high. He said progress had been stalled too long.
“I believe the right thing to do for the local residents and Snohomish County as a whole is to stop the reconveyance,” Low said.
The project would cost the county $200,000, Low said, and funding was not set aside in this year’s budget.
DNR did not expect the council to reverse the reconveyance, according to spokesperson Bob Redling in a statement the agency issued after the vote. Staff is still examining the implications of the decision
The 187-acre harvest has been heavily debated since it was first planned for on the county-owned, DNR-managed land nearly a decade ago. Regional groups are concerned about the impact to future and existing trails that cross from the Reiter Foothills State Forest into Wallace Falls State Park. They worry a clear cut could negatively impact the local recreation industry.
The county council determined last winter it would address the objections, as the sale looked like it would go forward. Low worked with Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to reach an agreement that was supported by the council and County Executive Dave Somers.
The 25-acre reconveyance was approved last winter, and the final sale went forward in May. Three companies made bids for the remaining land on May 24. The sale came one day after three environmental groups filed a lawsuit that would ultimately halt the sale once again.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge decided on Aug. 11 to uphold an appeal of the sale by the environmental groups. Her ruling required the Department of Natural Resources to conduct another State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review of the acreage.
Friends of the Wild Sky, the Pilchuck Audubon Society and the Skykomish Environmental and Economic Alliance (SVENA) hoped the case would stop the logging altogether.
The minimum allowed bid was $956,000. Sierra Pacific Industries , the second-largest lumber producer in the United States, put in the highest offer at more than $1.32 million.
The California-based business operates a mill in Burlington, which employs about 200 people, and several other facilities in Washington. According to the contract, the company was required to complete the harvest by 2020.
Spokesperson Lisa Perry said the company was disappointed when DNR pulled the sale this fall, but Sierra Pacific has no say in the matter.
Of the revenue made from the Singletary sale, the state will take about 25 percent, and the county will take about 75 percent. DNR will use its portion for land management activities aimed at generating revenue.
“The local junior taxing districts are hurt by the loss of these timber sale funds, and Snohomish County does not have the resources or a plan to turn these 25 acres into a county park,” Low said.
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