Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT
Regional regulators raised the total fines for Ken Bareilles in light of the important role of Felta Creek watershed, a last refuge for spawning coho salmon and steelhead trout.
A timber owner whose logging operations fouled the sensitive Felta Creek watershed, allowing sediment to enter the salmon-bearing waterway near Healdsburg over two successive winters, was ordered Friday to pay $276,000 in penalties.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s unanimous decision came as a severe blow to landowner Ken Bareilles, 81, who fought to deflect a proposed $251,000 fine during a 3 1/2-hour hearing only to have the board return with a harsher penalty given the importance of Felta Creek to coho salmon populations and the potential harm resulting from inadequate erosion control.
‘’The whole thing is speculative,” Bareilles argued, challenging what he considered to be weak evidence and chastising water quality personnel for failing to use sensors or gauges to measure the sediment in streams.
Staffers for the water quality board said measurements weren’t required after inspections over a year and a half continued to turn up on-the-ground evidence of absent or failed erosion-control measures that allowed silty water and mud to flow into Felta Creek and nearby tributaries to the Russian River.
“This was the sloppiest operation that I’ve seen on any active timber operation in my career,” veteran board staffer James Burke, a senior engineering geologist, said in presenting evidence against Bareilles.