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Saturday, May 30, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Treasure Of Lake Washington -- Firm Is Raising Sunken Logs For Profit

Seattle-area loggers - armed with a barge, a huge crane and sonar - are delving into the past by plucking dozens of logs from the murky depths of Lake Washington.

The logs, believed to have sunk in the southern portion of the lake some 70 years ago, are probably from Taylor's Mill, which stored defective logs in the lake in the early 1900s, according to Matt McCauley.

McCauley, who operates the sonar that finds the logs, said Taylor's Mill closed in the late 1920s. The underwater logging is being done by Western Wood Lumber, owned by John Tortorelli.

The logs, which are about 125 feet below the surface, are only good for paper pulp, McCauley said.

"It's like a time capsule down there," said McCauley.

The old Taylor mill stored the logs in the water, a practice known as flat rafting, rather than on land because it was cheaper, McCauley said. Eventually, the defective logs sank to the bottom.

Tortorelli said he became interested in hauling the logs to the surface after he saw a reference to the defunct mill on an old map. He wouldn't say how much he's getting for the logs.

The deep-water logging operation hasn't been without controversy. Investigators brought McCauley before a grand jury earlier this year as part of a probe into a break in a Metro sewer line on the bottom of the lake that allowed millions of gallons of raw sewage to empty into the lake.

The results of the grand-jury probe were inconclusive, said Teresa Whippel, a spokeswoman for Metro. The Environmental Protection Agency is still investigating the incident.

McCauley, who contends the logging operation did not break the sewer line, said he can spot sewer and phone lines with the sonar, which enables him to avoid them.

Water logging is not new to the Northwest. A logger named Henry Bruzco was taking logs out of the Columbia River in the early 1950s, McCauley said.

Tortorelli said he expects to find at least 150 logs in the lake. The logs are well-preserved because they are so deep that sunlight doesn't reach them. Sunlight would cause them to decompose.

The loggers are hauling nearly 20 logs a day - 30-to-40-foot-long hemlocks likely cut from along the lake shore.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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