Cool Soda comment period approaching


Administrators of the Cool Soda Planning Area project expect to solicit public comments in October, and the Sweet Home Ranger District will probably complete the National Environmental Policy Act process by October 2014.

“We’re just drafting the alternatives right now,” said District Ranger Cindy Glick. “You come up with a proposed action, and then you come up with alternatives on how you can get there.”

And that’s where the Ranger District will seek public input, Glick said. That way people can make sure their parts of the proposed plan remain included and can provide new ideas.

The Cool Soda Planning Area has followed an unusual process, an all-lands approach, Glick said.

The area, about 10,000 acres, contains mixed ownership, primarily U.S. Forest Service and land managed by Cascade Timber Consulting, about 60 percent of the Cool Camp-Soda Fork drainage, located roughly 25 miles east of Sweet Home.

The Ranger District took its cue from landscape architecture, using a planning technique called “design charrette,” Glick said. “We looked at the watershed as a whole.”

The Ranger District brought in experts of all kinds, its own scientists, loggers, fire ecologists, geologists and many more, to help develop the plan, Glick said. First, they looked at the inherent conditions of the land and then the current condition of the land. Third, they looked at what it might be possible to accomplish on the landscape.

The Ranger District ended up with a proposal that looked like a marketing plan, Glick said. It includes socioeconomic components as well as ecological projects. In fact, it emphasizes the socioeconomic components.

Proposed actions were included to benefit streams and wild fish, the forest and wildlife and community and culture, Glick said. “We’re really looking at the outcomes and how they benefit society.”

Work is already under way in the watershed with projects that require little public process. Projects must go through one of three different levels of process before they may begin.

Among projects that require less preparation under NEPA are a project by CTC to provide vegetation for elk and deer browsing along roadways, to keep them away from seedlings. The South Santiam Watershed Council is developing new spawning areas along the Soda Fork of the South Santiam River (see related story on page 1), and the Sweet Home Ranger District is replacing culverts along the Soda Fork to protect the road and improve movement of water and gravel under the roadway.

The projects fall under a designation called “categorized exclusion,” which requires little analysis.

The second level of projects, vegetation alteration such as cutting trees, requires an environmental assessment, Glick said. The most complicated projects require an environmental impact survey. Most of the Cool Soda Planning Area requires an EA or falls under categorized exclusions.

The Ranger District will need to get public input on the Cool Soda Planning Area as it progresses, Glick said, but she hopes to complete the entire NEPA process by October 2014.

Bringing together a variety of partners helps the projects with funding during competition for outside grants, Glick said. A three-way partnership, including the Forest Service, the Watershed Council and CTC, helped secure the grant for a tree falling project along the Soda Fork to improve fish spawning habitat.

“We’re excited about it,” Glick said. “We’re hoping to do a new type of EAQ.”

It won’t be as large and hard to read as a typical environmental assessment, Glick said. It will look more like a marketing plan, including a variety of graphic devices and photos based on an existing summary of the plan.

“We thought this is so easy to read, why don’t we do our NEPA document this way,” Glick said.

While working on Cool Soda, the Ranger District has just started work in a new planning area, including Trout and Moose creeks.