By Jack Durham
Press Editor & Reporter
Redwood logs installed at the foot of School Road to slow down flows in the Mad River and provide fish and wildlife habitat were stolen sometime in November.
“It’s a real head scratcher why someone would do that,” said Hank Seemann, Deputy Director of the Environmental Services division of Humboldt County Public Works.
It’s also a head scratcher as to how the logs were stolen. Someone had to use a chainsaw, and possibly a boat or barge to cut and haul the 3-foot-diameter logs. The heavy, water-laden logs were embedded in rock, with about six feet sticking out into the water at the base of what’s called the Mad River Streambank Protection Project.
The job of handling the timbers and getting them on to a boat or up the embankment would have been a major undertaking.
The thief, or thieves, sliced the logs off flush with the boulder groins that they stick out from.
A neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was paddle boarding on the Mad at the end of November when he noticed that the logs were cut off.
The $1.5 million Mad River Streambank Protection Project was built in the fall of 2008 to protect nearby homes from river erosion. High winter flows had eaten away at the bluff and threatened to wash away some of the homes. The streambank project included the placement of large boulders and a mattress of willow plants along 1,300 feet at the base of the bluff along the river. There were eight separate rock groins along the bank, each with a couple redwood logs sticking out into the water. Those logs are now gone.
“It’s a loss,” Seemann said.
The logs, he noted, were designed to slow down the turbulence in the river and give wildlife habitat.
“It was a nice habitat feature,” Seemann said.
But, Seemann said, the streamside project will continue to protect the bluff.
“It does not compromise the integrity of the structure,” Seemann said.
Scott Bauer, Coho Recovery Coordinator with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, said the theft ruined what little fish habitat was included in the project.
Wardens have been informed about the incident, Bauer said, but it’s unlikely the thief will get caught.
“Without a witness the odds of us locating the perpetrator are pretty thin,” Bauer said.
Unfortunately, Bauer said, it’s not uncommon for people to take wood from local rivers. This, he said, removes fish habitat. People need to learn to leave logs alone and keep them in the river, he said.
Being that the stolen logs were embedded in the Mad River Streamside Protection Projection, the only way to repair the damage would be a major reconstruction project, which isn’t economically feasible.
Anyone who may have witnessed the destruction is encouraged to call 1 888 DFG-CALTIP (888 334-2258).