County eyes timber sales to boost budget

MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners are hoping that revenue from timber sales on county forest land will help salvage the county’s operating budget and head off more cuts in the future.

The commissioners have set an auction for six proposed timber sales for March 8, hoping to sell more than 12.6 million board feet of timber and generate more than $3.6 million for the county and its special property districts.

Forestry Director Larry Smith briefed commissioners on the potential sales last week.

Revenue brought in from timber sales is split between the county and special property districts. From the $3.6 million estimate, the Forestry Department-managed tax title fund would bring in $905,536, Timberland Libraries would get $114,132, Port of Grays Harbor $108,039, the county road fund $530,495, the county operating fund $486,401 and schools would split the rest, at $1.477 million.

Smith said that although the sales are estimated to bring $3.6 million, the recent trend has been to bring in 10 to 15 percent more than the expected value.

That could be exceptionally good budget news for the county, which budgeted to get $300,000 for its operating budget from timber sales this year. At a minimum, they’ll likely get the estimated value at $486,401, but it could be as high as $550,000 or higher with the over-bid.

Smith noted that there’s even more money coming into the county from timber sales done last year that didn’t make it on the county books by the time the budget year ended.

“There are two active sales from last year,” Smith told the commissioners. “And that’s a windfall to you guys. … And this is typical for what we do. We don’t plug all the holes in the budget, but we feel like we make a difference.”

“We’re going to need to put a statue of you guys out there at some point,” Commissioner Frank Gordon quipped.

The timber sales are in the rural Hoquiam and Ocosta areas, Smith said. Breaking down the sales, there’s the Nelson Creek Salvage sale with 2.436 million board feet of timber valued at $701,388, the Little Hoquiam River No. 1 sale with 545,000 board feet of timber valued at $192,658; the West Fork Andrews Creek No. 1 sale with 2.278 million board feet of timber valued at $614,736; the Barlow Creek No. 4 sale with 905,000 board feet of timber valued at $318,755; the John’s River A-Line No. 1 sale with 3.385 million board feet valued at $934,162; and South Fork John’s River No. 1 with 3.156 million board feet valued at $860,450.

Smith said that the county has its 40,000 acres on a regular harvesting rotation.

“Of the 39 counties, we’re the only county that manages our own timber,” he noted.