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--  Harvesting  --

CABLE LOGGING Interior Style

Cable logging is new for Northwood Timber in the BC Interior, but the company expects to use contractors like Silver Tip Timber on a regular basis in the future.

By Jim Stirling

harvest1.jpg (63267 bytes)
harvest2.jpg (20858 bytes)A Washington 78A yarder (above) is the main production machine for the Silver Tip Timber operation. The machine was delivering four off-high-way loads a day for Northwood in the BC Interior. Silver Tip’s machine line-up also included the not-so-aptly named "Miss America" (right), the Drott guy-line stump.

It’s not quite the latest technological marvel, and the machine may chug a little like the "African Queen" as it sits waiting to send the grapple back up the hillside overlooking Tochcha Lake, but Brent George was hearing none of that about his Washington 78A yarder.

"It’s an absolute peach. Rock solid," he endorses. And it certainly seemed to be getting the job done. As the main production machine, the 78A was delivering four off-highway loads a day, each with an average 60 cubic metres, under tight operating conditions.

George is a partner with his brother, Aaron, in Silver Tip Timber, a Terrace-based cable logging contractor. In addition to carrying out the logging, Silver Tip also developed roads to access the 20,000 cubic metres of cable logging volume under contract to Northwood Inc.’s Houston Region in west-central British Columbia.

George says his 78A yarder provides excellent tight lines and has proven very reliable. "It’s men that make decisions, not machines, and we have an experienced and knowledgeable crew," he says. "Line speed is not going to make the loads at the end of the day. There are 100 ways to skin a cat."

The 78A was de-furring the feline with its 50-foot tower rigged throughout with 3/4-inch lines. George says he tries to keep the grapple yarding distances to less than 800 feet. Employing a dropline carriage achieved better deflection and extended yarding distances to about 1,150 feet, he explains. George was pleased with the 96-inch Micron Machinery grapple. "They build a beautiful machine. It’s very easy to use." He says he tries to have the hoe move felled wood to about 15 feet either side of the line for easier grapple yarding.

Other machines onsite included a Koehring heel boom loader, a Komatsu PCL 300 for the back spar, a John Deere 790 with processor and "Miss America", the Drott guy-line stump.

About half the area has been hand felled, with the balance harvested under sub-contract by a Cat 227 feller buncher with a 22-inch Koehring sawhead and 20-degree tilting cab.

The amount of site disturbance through road building is restricted under the terms of the contract. The road’s working surface was four metres wide. When LSJ visited the site, the yarder was the only phase working. "It’s been a little tougher than anticipated without the flexibility of turn-outs where necessary," explains George. "It’s a limiting factor, like right-of-way logging. It might be cheaper but it’s slower." Normally, other equipment works from the same road surface, slowing production down. Manoeuvring space is at a premium.

Cable logging is still something of a learning experience for Northwood in the BC interior, but volumes harvested in that manner are expected to gradually increase. Northwood is doing about 40,000 cubic metres this year and will do about the same annually over the next three years before probably increasing it to about 60,000 cubic metres, points out Patrick Bussiere, a harvesting supervisor in Northwood’s Houston Region.

"From our reccie work and pre-prescription stages, we’re laying out more cable ground in several of our operating areas," Bussiere explains. The first areas have been north and east of Babine Lake, in the region Silver Tip was operating. "We’re getting into the back end of valleys and utilizing more ground."

Bussiere says the Houston region is fortunate to be geographically close to the Hazleton-Terrace-Prince Rupert area where cable systems are conventional and a pool of experienced contractors is available. But everything from the all-important layout to WCB regulations change with the switch to harvesting on higher ground, he notes.

Bussiere believes BC’s Forest Practices Code has helped accelerate the company’s move toward utilizing more cable yarding systems.

"We’ve lost some of our land base and we have to get out further into the Timber Supply Areas. Site disturbance has to be reduced and it’s sometimes cheaper to cable log a block than build roads," he says.

Northwood is trying something different with some of its contractors by asking for a complete tender—which makes road construction, gravelling, essentially the whole delivery of wood process, the responsibility of the contractor, says Bussiere. "It’s a bit of a concern in that roads have to be built to grade enough for later use but from our point of view, if the contractor does that, it frees time for checking."

As Northwood develops more ground for cable-style logging, the challenge will be to match the terrain to timber types and harvesting systems to move wood to either roadside or landing. Grapple yarding systems and machines have the advantage of generally being high-production methods, notes Mark Fichtner, a forest operation supervisor for the north side of Northwood’s Houston region. But there are, in true logging tradition, limitations.

As grapple yarding distances increase, productivity losses occur and the pendulum swings more in favour of a high-lead system, says Fichtner. The flexibility of a grapple yarding system with a drop-line carriage—as Silver Tip was using—marries the advantages of the two systems.

Fichtner feels small towers under 40 feet high mounted on non-designated carriers probably lack the muscle to deal with some of the larger timber pieces Northwood can encounter. "And they may not be able to free sticks from the snow, which is an issue for us," says Fichtner. On the other side of the equation, the large old-style coastal logging towers are equally unsuited to interior slopes.

"We’re probably looking at 40 to 55- foot towers on larger carriers like Madill, Washington and Thunderbird," he surmises. "We’re definitely not looking at anything much larger or smaller." He also sees the time when cable yarding will be used for smaller-diameter wood.

Fichtner acknowledges the tight operating quarters and the sometimes difficult decking conditions are inherent with cable yarding systems in steep terrain. "We have big constraints on site disturbance and we can’t build trails there. That’s one reason why the cable yarding system is specified there in the first place. It’s a fact of life for the contractors."

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