Nevada City tree defenders prepare for confrontation | TheUnion.com
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Nevada City tree defenders prepare for confrontation

John Orona
Staff Writer

Orchard Street resident Tom Dykstra was so frustrated with PG&E’s plans to remove six trees in his front yard that he was prepared to go to jail opposing the tree removal.

Now, weeks later, Dykstra said he’s been frustrated by the utility company’s lack of communication and a timeline for when its work will be done, but he still plans to stand in its way.

“That is the frustration right now,” he said. “We don’t know when the attack is coming.”

According to Dykstra, he’s tried negotiating with PG&E, commissioning a report on the viability of two trees he wants to keep most, and offering to not contest the others if he can keep them. PG&E refused, he said.

Now, unsure of when contractors may come to remove his trees, he keeps lookout each morning for work trucks.

“I’m an early riser,” Dykstra said. ”I get up every morning and look in my street for equipment. If the equipment seems to staging on Orchard Street, there are people I inform about that.”

He didn’t say what he and the people he informs will do once PG&E show up to his residence, but said he is still committed to fighting back.

“My understanding is there are people with the intent to show we don’t agree with these trees being cut down,” he said.

According to Save Nevada County Trees organizer Matt Osypoweski, activists are gearing up for more direct confrontation while trying to protect trees at Pioneer Cemetery.

The shift comes following the disappointing loss of a blue Atlas cedar on Broad and Bennett streets, which for some weeks was a symbol of the group’s resistance,

Some of the demonstrators were surprised when the tree was cut last week to find the heart rot initially diagnosed by arborist Zeno Acton was not as severe as initially believed.

“The reading from my sonic wave timer indicated a significant defect in the lower stem — very significant,” Acton said. “Then when I went back and tested the stem at the city yard it indicated a far less significant defect and was more in line with the cubical brown rot that is actually present.”

Acton said he is still investigating what caused the discrepancy, which could have come from anything that affects electronic devices or the transfer of sound through material.

“I’m at a loss as to what that source of error might have been,” Acton said. “It’s definitely been a heart breaking experience.”

He added the tree was likely to have to come down either way.

“The choice to remove the tree was not mine ­— the pole would have had to have been moved or the tree would have had to come down based on what I know about the laws requiring minimum distance from the pole.”

Adding to the frustration, a report this month from PG&E monitor Mark Filip questioned whether the company’s vegetation management focused on meeting numerical goals rather than focusing on problem trees — a claim some tree activists were making before the report.

PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo noted the vegetation management was planned and underway before the Filip report was submitted.

“We understand that we didn’t get everything right the first time during 2019 and there are many lessons learned that we have incorporated in our ongoing work plans. We have also incorporated the Monitor’s important feedback into our current efforts and future plans moving forward,” Merlo said in an email. “Importantly, we continue to evaluate, evolve and refine our approaches to further reduce wildfire risk and get better this year and beyond. We want our customers, stakeholders and the public to know that we are committed to reducing the risk on our system and continuously improving our approaches to make California a better and safer place for our customers and communities.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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