COOS BAY, Ore. – A legal path has been cleared for hundreds of tons of landslide debris to be removed from a waterway near Coos Bay that is home to federally protected coho salmon and green sturgeon.
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In April 2012, a massive slide caused by a home-improvement project sent mud, rock, tree limbs and other debris into Coalbank Slough, which feeds into Isthmus Slough, which empties into Coos Bay.
The calamity spawned several lawsuits as the parties involved tried to assign blame for the mess and the financial responsibility for the cleanup.
A settlement was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Eugene, The Register-Guard newspaper reported (http://is.gd/fdCqWC). Under the deal, two insurance companies would pay a total of $700,000 toward the cleanup.
The deal must be approved by a judge and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
"It has been a long road to this point, but in the end we have accountability for this disaster and a good result for Coos Bay," David Petrie, a member of Coos Waterkeeper.
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Petrie said he hopes the site, which is considered important salmon habitat, will be restored in three to four months.
The problem arose when homeowner Mikeal Lindh hired contractor Johnson Rock Products of Coos Bay to haul in and dump thousands of cubic yards of fill on Lindh's property on a hill above the slough. Lindh was seeking to level and grade the uneven terrain of his property.
An estimated 1,500 cubic yards — about 200 to 300 truckloads — spilled down the hill, onto a neighbor's property and out about 80 feet into the 100-foot-wide slough.
Under the proposed deal, Johnson Rock would be responsible for cleaning up the site to federal and state standards. Lindh's insurance company would chip in $300,000 toward Johnson Rock's cleanup work and other liabilities; Johnson Rock's insurer would pay $400,000 toward the cleanup.
Brian Chenoweth, the attorney for Johnson Rock, said he's unsure whether the insurance payments will cover all of Johnson Rock's liabilities in the settlement.
Johnson Rock expects it will spend about a week removing the debris, followed by planting and site monitoring, Chenoweth said. He said the company looks forward to resolving the situation.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com