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Expensive Save For Centuries-Old Menlo Park Oak Tree

MENLO PARK (KCBS) - The 64-foot tall oak tree that stands in the way of a new Hetch Hetchy water pipeline will not be chopped down, even though the alternative will be costly, an official said.

The new plan to tunnel under "Granny", as neighbors have dubbed the tree, could add another $500,000 onto the $2 billion seismic upgrade of the Hetch Hetchy system, a spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities told KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier.

The owner of the property where the 300-year-old valley oak sits behind said residents of the North Fair Oaks Neighborhood were pleased there was a way to preserve the tree and install a new pipeline to replace two older pipes that deliver water to all of San Mateo County.

The SFPUC had originally decided tunneling under the tree was too complicated. Even if it isn't damaged during construction, the tree's roots could eventually compromise the pipeline as they seek out water.

Outcry from neighbors when construction crews posted notices one Friday afternoon that the tree would be cut down the following Monday eventually led to a meeting between residents and top officials at the utility.

No time frame has been announced for when tunneling would begin, as the PUC examines how to minimize the cost of digging.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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