Timber Tax Cuts Cost Oregon Towns Billions. Then Polluted Water Hit

"Rural communities in Oregon paid millions of dollars for clean, safe drinking water because the state didn’t protect their watersheds from logging-related contamination."

"On a damp night in November 2019, dozens of residents packed into the local firehouse in Corbett, Oregon, a town about 30 miles outside of Portland. Water manager Jeff Busto told the crowd that logging had devastated a creek that provided part of the town’s drinking water supply.

A timber company had clear-cut thousands of trees along the creek, leaving only a thin strip standing between the town’s drinking water and recently flattened land strewed with debris. A single row of trees was left on either side to protect it from mud, herbicides and summer sun. After many of those trees were bowled over by wind, the creek flow dropped so low that the town could no longer get water.

As a result, Corbett now had only one creek supplying drinking water for more than 3,000 residents. If a wildfire or more logging compromised the remaining creek, the town’s taps could run dry in as little as three days, Busto said.

“I’m really seriously concerned about the future of this community,” Busto told the crowd. “There are places all over the world that lose their water source and they lose their town. If you guys don’t have water coming out of your tap, you’re not going to be able to live here.”"

Tony Schick reports for Oregon Public Broadcasting, and Rob Davis for the Oregonian/OregonLive, in collaboration with ProPublica December 31, 2020.

Source: ProPublica, 01/27/2021