By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
A giant helicopter carrying 9,000- pound logs on a tether disrupted traffic yesterday on Route 197 and work continuing today will disrupt traffic again periodically between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Simpson Resource Co. is using the Boeing Vertal 107 to carry trees cut from two sites on the steep hillside rising above Route 197 about one mile east of Highway 101.
"This is a cleaner, better way to log these two pieces. And we have traffic control because we don't want any chunks to roll down into the road; the faces are so steep," said Robert Miller, Simpson operations manager.
About 1,000 feet of roadway on Route 197 was blocked to traffic during the operation for 10-minute periods yesterday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The same traffic delays will occur today between 7 a.m and 3 p.m.
Road flaggers will stop traffic while the helicopter makes three to four trips with big logs from the cutting area to a flat spot a few hundred feet away, where a truck can safely load them.
Carrying 1,000 pounds of fuel, the helicopter flies for about an hour at a time with half-hour breaks to fuel up.
Simpson contracted with the Columbia Helicopter Co., out of Portland, to complete the entire operation, from cutting the trees to traffic control.
According to a Columbia spokesman, this is the second major helicopter logging operation in as many months in the Smith River area.
In late September, a Chinook helicopter, three times bigger than the Vertal 107, was used in another Simpson logging operation.
The two hillside areas being logged this week together total about 30 acres.
Miller said the logged trees are second-growth redwood and fir. An Orick mill is the destination for the redwoods and the Brookings sawmill will take the fir logs.
More helicopter logging of the hillside will continue through the weekend, but will not disrupt traffic. It will be visible from the south side of the river near the Granite Construction Co. office.