Settlement to include cash and transfer of timberlands
According to a memo from SPI owners Red, George and Mark Emmerson to SPI employees Monday, July 9, the settlement will include cash and a transfer of some timberlands.
In their memo, the Emmersons reassured their employees that the settlement would not affect their jobs or the overall viability of SPI.
The Emmersons said they still believe neither SPI nor its contractors started the fire, but because they could still be found responsible, they decided to settle.
The federal government has settled its suit against Sierra Pacific Industries over who started the 2007 Moonlight Fire, sources reported Thursday, July 5.
The terms of the agreement have not been made public. All parties are expected to sign the agreement by Wednesday, July 11, at which time the terms will be disclosed.
The government sought $700 million in alleged damage to the Plumas and Lassen national forests. Besides suppression, investigation, collection and administration costs, the feds also seek payment for loss of timber, habitat and environmental value as well as costs for rehabilitation and restoration.
The settlement will likely be the largest ever in a case about the origin of a wildfire. Previously, the Storrie Fire settlement, at $102 million, was the richest. Union Pacific settled that case in 2008. The Storrie Fire burned 52,000 acres in the Plumas and Lassen national forests in 2000.
The Moonlight agreement came as the suit was scheduled to go to trial. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows called for negotiations.
Unspecified logging operations were the cause of the fire, according to a brief report given to the media more than a month after the fire by Forest Service officials.
It took almost two years before the investigative report would be released to the public.
The official cause identified in the report was a rock strike from the front blade of a bulldozer driven by a Howell’s Forest Harvesting employee.
The fire originated in the Cooks Creek Timber Sale.
The property manager named in the suit was W.M. Beaty and Associates of Redding, which was responsible for submitting the timber harvest plan and was the timber seller.
The purchaser named in the suit was Sierra Pacific Industries of Anderson.
The timber operator listed was Eunice Howell, owner of Howell’s Forest Harvesting of Shasta County.
The federal suit is just one of several in the legal finger-pointing over who was responsible for starting the fire. CalFire has its own suit in Plumas Superior Court seeking $8.4 million in fire suppression, investigation, administration and accounting costs.
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