PG&E starts tree removal in county

  • 2/28/2012: A1:
    PC: PG&E has cleared about 10 trees a year under high voltage power lines at Safari West, but this past year they cleared 80 trees.

PG&E is scheduled to begin removing trees Thursday as part of a controversial maintenance program that has targeted thousands of trees along a 39-mile corridor that runs through Sonoma County.

The work — 17 trees in eight locations mainly in Larkfield and Rincon Valley — addresses immediate threats to the high-voltage lines, but does not constitute a start to more far-reaching removals that have caused concern among property owners, according to the company.

"This is urgent work that we need to take care of," said PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers. "It's an imminent threat."

"It's part of the same line; it's just different work," she said.

Ehlers said the eight property owners affected by today's work have been notified and that the company is still moving forward with outreach to other property owners concerned with the company's new, more aggressive vegetation maintenance plan.

Property owners and environmentalists contend the company has unnecessarily targeted thousands of trees for removal — a move they say will create a 39-mile scar from The Geysers to Petaluma along high-tension lines.

Representatives from the all-volunteer Save Our Sonoma Trees asked PG&E late Wednesday to call off work planned for today until a meeting between the group and PG&E can be set.

"I'm a little surprised that this work is scheduled. We had thought there would be no work until there was discussion," said Tom Birdsall who owns 41 acres on Sonoma Mountain Road.

His group is pressing for a uniform policy on removal, pruning and maintenance.

"Obviously, then it's easier to implement and (it's) more straightforward," Birdsall said. "Most of the landowners now want to be there when any work happens."

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