It's been a tough winter in the Pacific Northwest. After enduring widespread flooding and landslides in November (HCN, 1/22/96), the region was slammed even harder in early February by a combination of heavy rains and melting snow. The recent landslides were the worst in three decades, say experts; repair costs could exceed $40 million.
While the weather has
cleared, controversy over what caused the destruction remains.
Environmentalists continue to blame logging roads and clearcuts,
plus wetlands destruction and urbanization, for decreasing the
land's ability to soak up heavy rains. A recent aerial survey of
the Mapleton Ranger District of Oregon's Siuslaw National Forest
revealed that only three of 185 landslides were natural, says Andy
Stahl of the Association of Forest Service Employees for
Environmental Ethics. The rest resulted from deforestation and
logging roads on steep hillsides. "It was no act of God that caused
these landslides," says Stahl. Oregonians have asked newly elected
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to look into manmade causes of the
Still, some people have stood up for
dams. U.S. Army Corps engineers say Portland and Eugene would have
suffered far worse flooding without dams and reservoirs on the