Forest Road Design and Construction in Chile
Controlling Costs – Managing Environmental Impact

Forest road design and construction in Chile is driven by operational optimization at the block level, grade limits and construction costs. Design criteria are generic, volume estimates are coarse and used for budgeting and contract tendering and construction control is limited. Environmental factors, particularly terrain stability, riparian values and water quality, while generally addressed at the planning level are not well regulated nor consistently addressed through construction practices at the site level.

Much of the plantation landbase in Chile is located in steep terrain and is now coming on stream for first rotation harvest. Road networks established for mid rotation thinning 15 years ago are being reactivated or completely redesigned. Under current practice, many secondary and tertiary access roads are abandoned after thinning or harvest with no deactivation or drainage maintenance. In steep terrain, this has led to numerous problems including significant landslides resulting in site loss and impacts to watersheds. Many of these impacts have yet to be recognized.

Most of the plantation landbase is located on private lands and environmental regulation is limited in scope and application. Larger companies may build 600–800km of new road a year. Industry’s primary interest is in improving operational costs and companies are interested in new approaches and technology as a means of reducing costs by improving road planning, design and minimizing construction costs. Forest and environmental certification is driving companies to address environmental impacts associated with road construction, maintenance and harvesting.

In November 2004, Len Apedaile and Eric Kay delivered a customized two-day introductory workshop for CORMA (Chilean Industry Association) to representatives of member companies. Participants included road planning staff, construction foremen, layout personnel, and contractors. The workshop was presented in Spanish and English.

The workshop focused on practical layout, design and construction practices for forest roads to meet a range of objectives including road network and haul efficiency, road design, conformance with certification requirements, cost effectiveness, and minimizing environmental impact. The workshop included both classroom and field presentations and was well received. The discovery of widespread maintenance and deactivation issues during the course and related field trips raised new questions about rotation term road management between harvest entries. Econ spent an additional five days touring individual company operations and providing input and advice on road-related issues. Two papers were also presented at the annual Expocorma road workshop.

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