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PG&E to cut thousands of trees in county

PG&E Co. plans to cut down thousands of trees under its high-voltage power lines across Sonoma County to help protect the local power grid from blackouts.

But worried residents are pushing back, saying the new policy is overkill that threatens to brand the county with a 39-mile-long scar from The Geysers to Petaluma.

"When you take away this many trees, it's just going to leave a barren swath that I think is unattractive," said John Potter, who lives in Oakmont with his wife, Anne.

The couple's house sits about 50 feet from the path of the transmission wires, close enough to hear the occasional hum of the 230 kilovolts flowing by their deck.

But visually, the Potters are buffered from the lines by more than 40 oaks and madrones behind their property.

But nearly all of them have painted blue dots on their bark, marking them for removal.

For Yvonne Horn, a travel writer who lives nearby, it would be a stunning loss.

She doesn't mind losing her oleanders, which also are slated for the ax even though they pose no obvious threat. But it seems a terrible waste to chop down old oaks in the hills above, she said.

"They are just pieces of art and they don't come up readily," she said. "To cut them down, it would just really, really be too bad."

Until recently PG&E would trim and top such trees. But a 2003 blackout blamed on trees that cut power to 50 million people in the Northeast put new focus on hazards that vegetation can pose to the nation's power supply.


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