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Local News

Fuel break denudes slopes

June 18, 2021 — Last month, PG&E cleared the vegetation on either side of its transmission lines for about two miles along Road A in Redwood Valley, from its substation to Highway 20. The clear cut area is up to 80 feet wide in some places, and traverses steep slopes and narrow canyons. 

The work is in a public utility easement outside the coastal zone, and is exempt from county review, according to Planning and Building Services.

PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said in an email that certified arborists communicated with every landowner along the line about the work, which she said did not affect old erosion caused by concentrated water from driveways and ditches. She did not respond to a question about how that assessment was made. Also, arborists are not trained to the level of registered professional foresters. 

The company plans to mitigate the erosion with straw, waddles, and water bars. Most of the property owners did not agree to the use of herbicides, so the remaining stumps are expected to stabilize the soil. Contreras added that, “Fuel breaks created along transmission lines before and during active wildfires have been instrumental in preventing the advancement of wildfires throughout the state.”

But Nancy Macy and Jeanne Wetzel Chinn disagree. They’re members of the Sierra Club’s utility wildfire prevention task force and two of the authors of a white paper on the harmful effects of PG&E’s tree removal practices. Wetzel Chinn is also the chair of Ukiah’s Western Hills Fire Safe Council.

They say there are readily available technological fixes that would keep the trees in the ground, sequestering carbon and providing habitat for wildlife.

Hear more Macy, Wetzel Chinn, and a registered professional forester describing the site.

Local News