Many residents have contacted me about the ongoing forestry work alongside the A82 between Onich and Fort William, concerned about the risk of landslides following tree felling. Also, some people asked about what work would be done to soften the rather stark after effects of the felling process. They are concerns also shared by Nether Lochaber Community Councillors.
So I raised the issue with Alex Macleod the Forestry Commission manager responsible for the A82 works, here is his comprehensive reply:
Since June 2013 we have carried out further slope stability works with some of the work being done during September & October with our contractors Georope. They have also been active since early January of this year. Our slope stability operations will continue up to the Easter holiday period after which we will be carrying out a second phase of harvesting before the summer holiday period begins. The next phase of slope stability works will commence again during this Autumn. The current works have focused around scaling operations on rock crags in the trees above the A82 nearer Corran Ferry but in also placing rockfall netting on one of the scaled rock crags nearer the picnic site.
Throughout all the slope stability operations the Forestry Commission (FC) has been advised by specialist geotechnical consultants who have assessed the risks that the crags and the hillside pose to the A82. The works that have been undertaken to date are the remedial measures recommended by our geotechnical consultants to reduce the risk of a rockfall or landslip. This is a proactive and responsible approach by the FC to avoiding unplanned disruption to the A82 as a result of a rockfall or landslip event. The felling of the trees also ensures that this section of the A82 will be less likely to be closed as a result of trees being blown down during storm events.
The following is a paragraph from my reply to the concerns raised last year though the information I gave then remains relevant now;
“On the positive side however, nature is already beginning to effect changes on the felled area and during a visit last week I noted that bracken, ferns and other flora are already beginning to grow given the increase in light onto the forest floor. This area is also classified as a PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) which means that the Forestry Commission plans to establish native woodland where the conifers once stood; this is why we have left some standing broadleaves there to help as a seed source. It is likely though that some replanting of the area with trees will be necessary though in order to help the new broadleaved crop establish itself; this work is likely within the next 2 years.”
Please re-assure the community council that it is unlikely that there will be an increase in the likelihood of landslips during wet weather as a result of our work as both the harvesting and geotechnical work done to date has been carefully planned and carried out. We have ensured that all natural drainage channels have been left clear and following harvesting our geotechnical consultants have advised that they are happy with the quality of the work done. We will however continue to inspect this area regularly, especially so until the native woodland is re-established. The other point I would add is that the risk of landslip at Glen Righ was actually considered to be lower against the higher risk posed by rockfall or windblown trees which are much more likely; this is why the operations are focusing mainly on rock scaling to remove loose material and on tree felling to remove the risk of windblown trees.
As part of the current phase of operations we will be liaising with Transport Scotland & BEAR to tidy up the A82 verges nearest the picnic site below the area felled last year. I would also be grateful if you could express the gratitude of the FC to the community council for continued forbearance of local people to the traffic management which we know will be causing some disruption.
I hope that answers the queries raised but please do not hesitate to contact me again in you require further info.
Alexander J Macleod – A82 Project Officer