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Our View: We need a solution that works for everyone

The Union Editorial Board

Just when PG&E thought it was safe to cut down trees, a judge steps in.

It was bound to happen. A utility behemoth, slapped down in the courts over its negligence in maintaining power lines, now lurches to the forefront of precautionary action. It informs the Nevada City Council that it’s deemed certain trees a danger, and will cut them — no further discussion needed.

Well, what did PG&E think would happen in Nevada City? It’s no surprise that members of a group opted to become tree sitters while an attorney went to court and got an injunction.

Now no trees are getting removed, and we get to wait until a Nov. 6 evidentiary hearing for the next limb to drop.

Or do we?

Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson included a line in his order that just might entice both sides to the negotiating table — that cutting can still happen right now, it’s just that the parties involved need to agree to it.

That’s something we desperately need, as some of these trees must go while others on the chopping block should stay.

Matt Osypowski, an organizer with Save Nevada County Trees, has already acted. He sent an email to Nevada City Council members in hopes of reaching an agreement on which trees can stay, and which should go.

Osypowski suggests a working group be formed of council members, PG&E representatives and private citizens. The group would work toward a solution everyone can stomach.

The first of his goals — saving as many trees as possible — is key. Osypowski acknowledges that many of the trees targeted for removal need to go. His group is already meeting the other side halfway.

The second — ensuring property owners get “reasonable compensation” for their sacrifices — won’t fly. PG&E has already stated that these trees are considered hazardous. It has an initiative, the “right tree, right place mitigation” program, that can provide up to $500 to private landowners. But don’t expect PG&E to compensate someone dollar for dollar for removing what it’s called a hazard. That’s a precedent it would never allow.

Trees, despite their longevity, grow old and die like the rest of us. Bark beetles infest them. Strong winds down them, along with power lines.

And that, really, is why we’re at this point.

There are a handful of directions our community could go from here. As is usually the case, compromise is the best option. The answer must work for the entire community, not just a few.

That means everyone involved must agree to something they don’t like.

One possibility is returning to the report already compiled by an arborist about the trees. Decide on which ones stay and which should be removed.

Property owners who have trees they want to stay should have some skin in the game. They should reimburse some of the cost of the arborist. After all, it’s that work which helped save those trees.

However, not all private landowners want their trees to remain. PG&E says all private property owners have given permission for their removal. Some of their minds might change because of new developments.

That’s why a working group is good idea. Put representatives from every side on it. Hash out the details in public, and reach an agreement.

PG&E might not like it because the timeline is extended. It might not be Save Nevada County Trees’ first choice, because some trees it wants to remain could get removed. Some property owners could chafe at it if they have to pony up any funds.

But, in the end, our community gets a resolution that’s forged in the public eye and agreed upon by those involved.

Whether you actually like that resolution, well, you’ll be the judge of that.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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