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Tree removal opposition becomes sticking point for microgrid

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An inventory of the trees to be mitigated within the city is available in the Nevada City Planning Commission packet

PG&E officials said Tuesday that work to ensure Nevada City and Grass Valley have critical infrastructure energized during a Public Safety Power Shut-off is substantially complete, with removal and mitigation of more than 250 trees the last remaining hurdle.

According to PG&E spokesperson Brandon Sanders, all sectionalizing devices required to make PSPS impacts in Nevada County smaller this year have now been installed, with additional generators at Grass Valley substations to be installed in early September. This will provide a larger reenergized area than last year.

Sanders, who spoke at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, said PG&E’s arborists found most of the trees are diseased, dying, or would otherwise require complete removal. The company said it will seek a third party opinion to ensure reenergizing the area is safe following the vegetation clearing.



The mitigation work will center on the corridor along Highway 49 near Old Tunnel Road that connects Grass Valley and Nevada City, parts of downtown Nevada City, and north to the Eric Rood Administrative Center.

The Nevada City Planning Commission hosted PG&E officials at its meeting last week in what was billed in the agenda as a tree removal permit hearing, but soon found that due to public safety mandates, PG&E’s work would move forward irrespective of its input. The commission will have a special meeting Sept. 2 to receive the city attorney’s guidance on what authority it has in the area.



Some in the community are calling for a more collaborative approach from PG&E, concerned for historic trees and claiming not all the mitigation is necessary. Nevada City resident Matthew Osypowski has started a petition to reconsider the tree removal, which as of Tuesday had more than 950 signatures.

Sanders said while the local PG&E arborists understand the community’s concerns about altering the town’s historic look, he said it would change much more for the worse should a fire occur.

The Nevada City Council will receive an update on the tree removal at its meeting tonight.

While supervisors pushed the company to increase infrastructure hardening, Sanders said the vegetation clearing would be necessary even around hardened lines.

PG&E has replaced 15 miles of infrastructure in the county with stronger poles and covered wires, with the goal of replacing another 18 miles this year. The replaced line was based on its ignition rates and fire risk, not on whether hardening the line would contribute to them being energized during a PSPS event.

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


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