Giant Brush Threatens Watershed

The San Jose Water Co. supplies 1 million residents in San Jose and nearby communities from the Lexington Reservoir in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They own more than 1,000 acres of the watershed between the reservoir and Summit Road where they have stated it is their intention to start a vigorous logging operation. Their plan is to divide the area into nine sections and log one section per year on a rotating basis, removing 40 percent of all trees with a circumference of more than 24 inches. They equate this with “brush clearing” and assert that it is being done to cut down on fire danger. A one-hundred-foot-tall redwood is pretty big brush!

Is this a joke? Mowing down 40 percent of the largest trees in the forest is not brush clearing. That would involve removing only the smallest members of the forest floor. Being that they are in the water business, you would think the company’s best interest would be served by preserving all the large trees, as they are huge storage containers for fresh water, as well as the carbon they filter from the air, and they shade the ground from the sun, greatly slowing the evaporation process and thereby conserving water. Top scientific experts have stated that in logging the area as proposed, the company will increase the fire danger, contaminate the creek, and do great harm to the watershed and forest ecosystem. Many local residents and environmental watchdog groups agree. So what is the San Jose Water Co. up to?

The company says that the logging operation is necessary to fund the real brush clearing effort and will provide a nice profit to the company at the same time. They have hired Big Creek Lumber to perform the work and are seeking an open-ended permit to continue the operation indefinitely. There are many other ways to finance the clearing of brush. It’s obvious that the real reason for the plan is that the company has decided to create an additional annual profit center with the watershed’s timber—great for the shareholders, bad for everyone else on the planet.

Private management of natural resources for supply to the public at a profit carries an extra burden of responsibility for the company involved and is quite different from ordinary enterprise. In taking on this responsibility, the San Jose Water Co. put itself in a position of providing stewardship of the land with regard to the greater public good. The company is violating the public trust with its wrongheaded plan, and the state should keep the company from cutting large trees and anything else besides real brush under any circumstances. There is a serious proposal in motion for the land to be bought by the public under the auspices of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which is the very best solution to this problem. The public should own their watershed and the land should be managed in an ecologically sound manner for the benefit of all.


  1. This is quite understandable.  Those trees have to be harvested before the county can declare any of them heratage trees.

    Or is it that SJW Co. is just getting out in front of this Global Warming thing and take them befofre it does.

    On the flip side. . .  Big Tree Lumber Co. has done some leading-edge work in the area of concervation and sustainable forestry or resource management.  From what I’ve read, it is highly respected as a trend setter in ‘best practices’ when it comes to managing a sustainable resource.

    There may be more to this that we do not understand and I would like to learn more before branding SJW and BTL enemies of the land.

  2. Jack said: “Being that they are in the water business, you would think the company’s best interest would be served by preserving all the large trees, as they are huge storage containers for fresh water”.  HUH?

    Actually Jack, the opposite is true. The huge amount of water the large trees “store”, as you term it, is not drinkable by people, and doesn’t enter Lexington.  Therefore, it reduces the amount of water SJ Water can sell.  This it is in their best interest TO CUT these voracious non-rate paying water consumers.

  3. If all they want is to clear brush, couldn’t they just turn a small herd of goats loose like other areas do?  Scrub brush gets cleared, land gets fertilized. goats are happy and trees can be left alone.

    JMC get that you are being cute (maybe),  but the trees hold things together to keep soil systems intact to ensure water isn’t just running downhill.

    With that said, forests do need to be thinned, whether it’s done via fire or axe to at least pretend it’s replicating a natural process.  But, the forest also needs the nourishment of fallen trees to maintain the biodiversity.  It think there may be a compromise in there somewhere, but until people want to compromise it ain’t gonna happen.

  4. You ultra left people are always demanding that land in private hands be managed to fit your ideas.  If you really feel that way, do the right thing and let the neighbors (and you) purchase the land and then you can do with it as you wish.

    Only then, where will the water come from?


  5. Today’s bog is another example of Jack using his position as Editor to push his minority socialist personal views concerning property ownership using either poorly researched or purposely misstated facts ( percentage and type of trees to be cut) and very thin connection to the purpose of San Jose Inside which is to encourage political debate, discussion and change in our city

    San Jose Inside is becoming less relevant day by day due to Jack’s off topic blogs and not addressing important San Jose topics to improve our city

  6. #3: yes, I know that tree ROOTS hold things together.

    I also know that dry brush needs to be cleared now and then to prevent wildfires, toward which our hills are prone.

    Someone needs to convince me that cutting down 40% of all the biggest trees somehow prevents firs from starting and spreading.

    I don’t believe goats eat the kind of scrub brush that’s in the forests we’re speaking of; and they are usually turned out in fields with weeds, where they are fenced in to keep them from straying too far.  That cannot be done in the land we are speaking of.

    I must agree with #4—the lefties are always quick to tell someone what to do with land the lefties don’t own—witness the (thankfully) failed county ninitiative last year.

    Sempervirens Fund raises $$ and buys land and then keeps it prisitine.  They don’t cut off the water, #4; so it’s still available to us all.

  7. More of Jack’s typical possible misstatement of facts

    – Mowing down 40 percent of the largest trees in the forest
    – Their plan is to divide the area into nine sections and log one section per year on a rotating basis,
    – removing 40 percent of all trees with a circumference of more than 24 inches.

    unless Jack can provide references to back up his stated facts he is using his position as Editor to push his socialist personal views and misleading us again

    Read above SJ Water’s web link description of project

    – ” would leave all old growth trees and 80% of Douglas firs and redwoods untouched ”
    –  ” plan proposes to remove 20% of trees more than 12 inches in diameter “
    – ” nine parcels ” ” only one parcel every other year ”  “
    –  ” will return to a parcel after 15 years “

    Jack , please provide your references to us or admit you misstated facts

  8. Gee JMO – our Jack , editorial director of is a lefty, tell me you are kidding

    JMO – agree with your comments about lefties always telling people how to use their land under the and Sempervirens Fund does a great public service

    Every time someone tells you that government can do it better or that we should violate fundamental constitutional rights for the public good –  Bush and socialists have a lot in common – be afraid,  very afraid for your constitutional rights, freedoms and hard earned money

  9. I always get a laugh from the comedians on this site who throw around the terms of “ultra left” and “socialist” whenever somebody wants to protect the land. Private ownership does not give you carte blanche to do whatever you want—even if you own something.
    You may own your house but there are some things you can’t do, you may own a car but there are certain things you can’t do with it, and you may own land but there are certain things you can’t do with it.
    People who want to protect the land (trees, water, air) are not all left—in fact many people understand the importance of protecting our land is a human issue, not a partisan political issue.
    So to my fellow comics, keep your labels to yourselves and work on your routines. You’re just not that funny anymore.

  10. #5,7 and 8, since you are the same person:

    You ask that we read the linked Jan 26 press release from the company in question and consider it “fact.” However, this press release and the “facts” you cite do not equate with the actual application for the permit from the state. According to the Mercury News, in numerous articles and a lead editorial in the past few days, the San Jose Water Co. application for their non-industrial timber management plan (NTMP) calls for the removal of 20% of all redwoods and Douglas firs less than 12 inches in circumference and 40% of all trees more than 24 inches in circumference over a period of 15 years in a rotating pattern through divisions of 9 sections.

    There were nearly 500 citizens at the state hearing last night at the county government center and the hearing went on well into the night. That is a very large number by normal standards and shows that this is an important local issue of interest to a great number of local residents.

    See the following for the latest news on this issue:

  11. Jack,
      Your post to save the Redwood trees owned by San Jose Water Company is a call for good judgement.
      Those that have responded would do well to click on this site. .
      I belive, after you have read this 5 paragraph web site you will agree that San Jose Water Company needs to stay out of the Redwood logging business for it’s own good. and ours.
    The magnificent redwoods have provided much of the summer moisture for San Jose for hundreds of years, and in fact, protect themselves by storing thousands of gallons of fog water in their bark and surrondings that protects them from fire during the hot summer months. It wasn’t redwoods that fed that horrific Loma Prieta fire.
      “A grove of Giant Redwoods or Sequoia should be kepted just as we keep a great or beautiful Cathredral”.
      Theodore Roosevelt 1919
      Click on and see what can be accomplished when 8000 wonderful dedicated doners come together for the common good.
      Cutting the forests that provide us with drinking water, is not an alternative.

                        Gil Hernandez
                Director, Sempervirens Fund

  12. This really is important…

    Just who is the San Jose Water Company and just how did they come to be entrusted with such a large share of the Santa Cruz Mountains?

    First they, SJWC, are not who they were… They are not a nice mom and pop outfit owned by some old local families… not anymore.

    Second, I would like to point out that when I was in Mrs. Nidever’s 8th grade class at Lakeside School in 1970, Lexington had an acre-foot capacity of roughly 26,000 acre feet. What is it today? Accurately measured, less than 19,000…  Someday our grandchildren will be arguing about when to develop Lexington Flats… The Town of Alma, reborn 40 feet above its old foundations….

    What is an average mature second growth Redwood tree worth…? $30,000.00 each, $100K…? Redwood sells for major bucks these days…. Several Summit Rd and Lexington area property owners that I could name own parcels outright after selling off just a few trees.

    And just how and why did the SJWC come into possession of the watershed? I think a case can be made that it was entrusted to them for specific use, and that was not logging. I think a case can be made that the County acted as the agent of the SJWC in many of the “encounters” with the sometimes reluctant sellers of said land… Google ‘Cothran and San Jose Water’

    Note that SJWC sued the Cothrans for cutting down two Redwoods claiming they had “muddied the creek”… Hmmm…

    Note also that the decline of the local economy and the onset of the Depression led directly to the acquisition of such a large domain, the Supes and the Sheriff might have been sorta helpin’ too…

    This is not a new issue for mountain people, or former mountain people. Much as the Owens Valley story was written, the people of the Lexington Basin do not control that most precious resource, the water that falls from the sky. Or the bulk of the land it falls on. And thus they depend on politics and others to determine what the real quality of life will be.

    Well I have something to tell you… The mountains have changed since I was kid, big bucks in that there Zip Code now… And all predicated on the value of the Real Estate, which is based on its location in a park like setting, undisturbed by chain saws and off road vehicles, not to mention helio-loggers…

    So the folks that show up for the hearing may sound a little left wing, but they drive very expensive cars, they vote and they write checks to environmental groups… They aren’t the blue collar mountain boys of yore, they don’t live there anymore… They went to Oregon years ago! Most of the kids went to college and the ones that came back… Well you know who you are, and there are many of us now living as Flatlanders. 

    And lastly I would like to point out that if SJWC wants to do some brush clearing they need to do it where it counts, where the brush is… The brush is where the old growth trees used to be and where conditions did not allow the regrowth of second growth trees, an area of the Santa Cruz Mountains that I have seen burn twice. The plan at hand is cherry-picking the easy creek side stuff, which also happens to be the most sensitive environment. This is an environment so sensitive that it has been strictly off limits to the citizenry for decades, the SJWC purchased and closed many roads (including the ones this logging plan is centered around) to insure the domain remained sacrosanct, when I was kid the Water Company guys had pistols and weren’t very friendly, or well liked. I guess they must’ve been tired of fixing flats.

    Until after Loma Prieta no mountain community had ever benefited from the SJ Water Works, in fact the communal basis for many of these communities is a mutual water company, with water rights hard won and defended from SJWC and the District. For years after Loma Prieta mountain residents watched pure water run to San Jose while they had to pay to truck it back up the Hill…

    And now they want to cherry-pick the big trees and call it “forest management” and “brush clearing”…

    Sounds like this was written by the Bush Administration… 

    Whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin’ over…

  13. There are a number of filed reports on this plan located at the CDF’s site.  If you can’t find the reports, call the CDF in Santa Rosa, and it can tell you how to locate the reports online.

    The reports show that the plan is a commercial timber harvest plan of redwoods.  There are huge redwoods on the land.  If approved, there would be the harvesting of redwood trees into perpetuity.

    Logging in a watershed is not advised because of the contamination to the water supply.

    The plan will increase risk of landslide and fire.

    This is a plan to urbanize the harvesting of trees.  Taking out the trees will open up the forest floor to damage from the sun and likely promote fire.

    The redwood tree is only located in the pacific northwest in the world.

    San Jose Water Company is a public utility, water is a public resource, its main business should be delivering water.  Even though it is a public utility, it is a privately held company.  This harvesting of trees at the expense of the environment would give it millions in revenut at the expense of the surrounding neighborhoods and ecology.  It’s all about money and the bottom line for SJWC.

    Our county supervisors have the power to determine if the place of this logging plan is right for the neighborhood but the supervisors refuse to exercise that power.  We should first demand that this issue be given a thorough review before even addressing whether the plan is a good one which is what CDF does.  Write to your supervisor and demand a review and a look at whether we should have commercial harvesting of trees as a way of life in the Silicon valley.