The Montana Land Board unanimously approved a one-month extension Monday to the salvage of submerged logs in the northern section of Flathead Lake.
Last year, the state granted North Shore Development Co. a short-term land use license to extract 400 logs from the lakebed, north of Point Caroline and Long Beach. But due to the time it took to issue the permits, salvage of the logs didn’t actually begin until December, according to Jim Cancroft of forestry consulting company Northwest Management Inc., which is handling the operation for North Shore.
Due to the harsh onset of winter, only 28 logs were salvaged before the operation became too difficult.
“We had about five days and then we had freezing water,” Cancroft said.
North Shore Development requested a renewal of the land use license to extract an additional 372 logs between April 4 and May 4. After that, North Shore Development can determine whether to enter into the full, 10-year land use agreement with the state, which costs $21,000. Cancroft said log salvage won’t occur on weekends in April.
The log salvage operation must also meet monitoring requirements to ensure it does not disturb sediments, metals or nutrients along the lakebed floor beyond certain levels.
“We did have some fairly rigorous monitoring requirements to do during some of the initial stages of taking some of the logs out,” Jeff Ryan, a water quality specialist for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said.
According to Ryan, DEQ received the first monitoring report on the log salvage operation about a month ago, and findings did not indicate any metal being mobilized, and “a very, very slight increase” in nutrients. Flathead Lake has limits on the amount of “nutrient loading” it withstands, which can lead to algae plumes.
“Initial results look promising, look pretty benign,” Ryan added.
The salvage comes after a 2008 settlement where North Shore is granted ownership of submerged logs with a circled “N” stamp, as part of a chain of title going back to the Somers Lumber Company. The state retains ownership of all other submerged logs on the lakebed.
As part of its temporary land use license renewal, North Shore will pay the state $150, along with 5 percent of the total amount it receives by selling unstamped sunken logs at a price of up to $1,000 per thousand board-feet. If the logs are sold for $1,001 or more per thousand board-feet, North Shore has to pay 10 percent.
Cancroft is not yet sure what price the specialty logs may fetch.
“It’s hard to price these logs out because we don’t have markets for them,” he said, adding that the plan, at this point, is to move forward with the salvage.
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