Kathy Dotson: Come see the trees marked for removal, Senator Dahle | TheUnion.com

Kathy Dotson: Come see the trees marked for removal, Senator Dahle

I have been resident of Nevada City for 26 years, and a property owner in downtown Nevada City for 13 years. I am writing in response to Senator Brian Dahle’s opinion piece in The Union on Wednesday. I invite the senator to come to Orchard Street, where my family lives, as well as to West Broad Street to see for himself the trees that are marked for removal.

I am part of a citizens’ group working to protect a small quantity of more than 263 trees PG&E has marked for removal on the above-mentioned streets. An injunction was awarded for a stay on the project because Judge Anderson shared our concerns and wanted to create space for negotiation and dialogue. Since then, we have been diligently working to figure out a more sustainable answer to what we feel is the excessive and unilateral nature of this project taking place entirely on our two small streets.

On Sept. 29, representatives from our group and our attorney met with a PG&E lawyer, two PG&E reps; the Assistant CEO of Nevada County Mali Dyck; Supervisor Heidi Hall; Nevada City attorney Crissy Hodgson; and City Council member Doug Fleming. It was a productive Zoom meeting that allowed our side to be heard, PG&E’s legal stance to be shared, and also it brought to light a larger story with the city and county. We were pleased to hear in this meeting that the county has upgraded its generator system in the last year and is no longer concerned that rolling blackouts will negatively impact the jail or Rood center.

Nevada City approved an undergrounding of electrical wires in 2017. The city did not have enough money to proceed with the project at that time. Just recently, the county has offered to give their Rule 20A funding credits to the city to get this undergrounding done. Additionally, Representative LaMalfa visited our town last month and committed to working to find federal funding to help with this project. If this happens, the tree removal will prove unnecessary.

Given the scope of work PG&E needs to do to catch up with years of neglected infrastructure, does it really make sense to prioritize low-risk trees in the vicinity of lines that will soon be made obsolete? With this project PG&E is being reactive for not being proactive for so many years. Undergrounding these wires is a proactive solution and a win-win both for PG&E and our city, which relies on its beauty and historic nature — including its trees — for a major part of its economy.

Unfortunately — as reported by John Orona in The Union on Oct. 1 — PG&E has diverted $120 million dollars from the ratepayer funded account designated for providing matching funds to communities like ours for undergrounding projects, and as a result has been placing every obstacle they can in the way of moving forward with such projects.

We absolutely agree that some of these trees should be removed for immediate safety. We are working towards getting these hazard trees, as well as trees legitimately approved by property owners, listed for work this season by PG&E. However, it is important to note that PG&E is dishonestly telling the community that all property owners have granted permission.

PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo remarked in The Union article on Sept. 23, “all property owners have granted permission to move forward with the work.” This is not true. For example, PG&E marked 13 trees on two neighbors’ properties. One had not agreed to removal, and the other neighbor was out of the state when the marking was done. Both have made statements to the press to confirm this.

In just 250 feet on Orchard Street there are 26 trees marked for removal, mostly large pine and cedar. Orchard Street will forever be changed by this tree removal project. Our filtered sun will be taken away. Protection from the heat will be taken away. And our property values will absolutely be negatively affected. My daughters are growing up loving their neighborhood, including these trees that surround them.

I take offense that I was included in a group that Senator Dahle called “radical.” I am a mom, a wife, a freelance designer, and an active member of this community. I have served my community in a large variety of ways, and I’m not going to stop trying to protect its beauty, especially if there is a sustainable and viable plan — like undergrounding wires — for the future of our towns.

Again, I invite Senator Dahle and anyone else to visit Orchard Street, West Broad Street and the Pioneer Cemetery to see for yourself the trees slated for removal. I am happy to meet with you and show you our neighborhood trees.

Kathy Dotson lives in Nevada City.

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