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Getting Answers: Why Hasn't PG&E Removed Marked Trees In Foresthill?

FORESTHILL (CBS13) -- Residents in parts of Foresthill community of Placer County are still working to clear driveways and move debris while they wait for the power to be restored.

On Cedar View Court, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) trucks and other crews worked Wednesday to bring power lines back online. On the same street, trees marked or tied with bright highlighter colors tell crews those are trees that should be removed. But, the trees weren't marked after the latest storm, and instead, were marked for removal in 2020.

The removal was part of the 2020 Enhanced Vegetation Management Plan through PG&E. That safety work narrows in on areas that are deemed a high-fire threat area. The plan was created to address vegetation that may pose a higher potential for wildfire.

In a statement to CBS13, a PG&E spokesperson outlined some of the work that falls under that Enhanced Vegetation Management Plan. It includes standards that exceed what the state outlines for minimum clearances around power lines, including pruning overhanging limbs and branches above power lines; additional inspections, beyond the routine patrols, to remove dead or diseased trees that are hazardous; tree evaluation on conditions, especially if the trees are within striking-range of power lines or equipment.

"In 2021, we met and exceeded our state vegetation safety standards by performing enhanced vegetation work across more than 1,800 miles in areas with highest wildfire risk to manage trees that posed a risk to electric distribution powerlines and equipment. In total, since its initiation in 2019, we have completed enhanced vegetation work along more than 6,400 miles of powerlines in high threat fire-districts."

Back to those trees on Cedar View Court: why are they still standing in 2022? The answer, according to a PG&E spokesperson, falls under the guidelines of the Enhanced Vegetation Management Plan.

Before the trees were removed, the "risk model changed", according to an email from PG&E to CBS13. Because of that change, the call to remove the trees was reversed. The reasoning was that the trees were only set to be removed as part of the management program, which meant the trees were targeted as "above and beyond normal requirements."

The neighborhood, and neighborhoods like it in high-fire risk areas, are patrolled twice a year by PG&E, according to management plans. Neighbors told CBS13 that going more than a week without power has them questioning if that's enough.

"It's kind of all of it. If it [didn't have] the power lines and trees on them, then it wouldn't be as big of an issue," said Julia Kerr, a homeowner who continues to clear her property of fallen trees.

Kerr moved into the Foresthill house two weeks before the power outage. She said a tree fell onto the roof of her home during the storm and she has not been able to live there since. In the meantime, she returns to the home everyday to remove the trees and tree limbs from the driveway.

PG&E has a Safety Net Program to repay customers during outages that are longer than 48 hours, according to the company's website. The program pays $25 to $100 automatically 60 to 120 days after the outage and the amount may depend on the outage length.

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