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The Oregonian: "Oregon forestry department appeals court ruling that logging road runoff is a form of pollution"

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October 6, 2010 -- The Oregon Department of Forestry is appealing a court ruling that runoff from logging roads is a form of pollution that requires a permit under the Clean Water Act.

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/10/oregon_forestry_department_app.html

By Eric Mortenson

The August ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involved the Tillamook State Forest, where the department plans to increase logging. The court said dirt, rock and sand washing off logging roads is "point source" pollution, which requires a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.

The case has been bouncing around the court system since 2006, when the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, based at Lewis & Clark College, filed suit against the state forester, forestry board and timber companies. The lawsuit involved two roads - the Trask River Road and the Sam Downs Road, both owned by the forestry department and used by timber companies to reach logging sites.

A lower court federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the environmental group appealed and won the ruling this summer.

Conservationists maintain that runoff from logging roads smothers salmon and trout eggs in streams, reduce oxygen level and bury insects that fish feed on. Logging companies typically install ditches and culverts alongside and beneath gravel logging roads to catch rain or snow runoff and to prevent the roads from washing out in storms. The stormwater systems redirect water to rivers.

If the appeals court ruling stands, timber companies might find themselves under greater regulatory scrutiny.