Tree Mortality Public Forum Notes

Just so you know, these are ‘flow of action’ notes from yesterday’s meeting.  I’ve cleaned them up a bit so that they make some sense.  If you have any questions, please ask.  There was LOTS of information flying in the air.

Core Team Members, Tree Mortaility
MWSPFPD Fire Chief Larry Crabtree, Tracie Riggs, OES of Tuolumne County; Mike Albrecht, Tree Mortality Project Manager; Ethan Billigmeier (missing–he was out in the lobby talking to homeowners) Tuolumne County OES; Cory Peters, PG&E vegetation manager; Jeff Sanders, Cal Fire/California Division of Forestry; Charlie (gal) Cal Trans. Eric Hedrick, operations manager, Phillips & Jordan, disaster recovery

JULY 30, 2016

Tracie Riggs……OES   Tuolumne Emergency Services
– introduced the panel – she is head coordinator and spokesperson

Larry Crabtree, chief, Mi Wuk Sugar Pine Fire Protection District
– fire dept is outside of group but is definately a part of all meetings
– this task force (on stage group) is a model – will be modeled at state and national levels
– Tuolumne County is light years ahead of the country
– currently 5 projects in community
– 108 – Cal Trans jobs
– in MWV – PG&E, distinct from task force; 3 cranes in community, largest is 192 ft tall, 250 ton frame, 5 axels — all are steering axels.  Currently working at Mi Wuk Water Company
right of entry form is for county work – not the form that PG&E needs us to sign- the form and release is totally different for PG&E.
– right of entry is for what county will do after PG&E leaves area
– form is definitely a ‘risk assessment’ — let county or PG&E take trees down OR
don’t sign form and you have to do it yourself when you have enough money to afford it
–  always looking for volunteer fire fighters for the small MWSPFPD
– goings on within the Fire District:  Cal Trans, PG&E, task force members, defensible space program

Mike Albrecht – tree mortality project manager, works w/OES county
– 75 million dead trees in CA, 3-4 thousand in Mi Wuk
– bark beetle started in early 90s in northern hemisphere
– beetles flourishing because forests are overgrown + drought worst in over 1000 years
– moisture in trees = beetles do not flourish
– beetles attack like slowly growing wildfire
–  3-5 years expectancy of the continuation of this mortality phenominon
– goal is to get trees from vertical to horizontal — they are safer on the ground
– next effort will be to get debris cleaned up
– all agencies are funded by tax dollars at work — money is well spent!
– Tuolumne county – their job is to keep county roads inside communites safe

Ethan Billigmeier – Tuolumne County Offices of Emergency services
– proud to be a part of this unfortunate project
– right of entry permits — very “legalize”…..hold harmless indemnification language is required by OES
– language necessary to access funding
– signing that we allow someone to come onto property at no cost.
– all contractors are licensed and bonded
– most are local
– they have a reputation to maintain
– will be available after meeting to answer questions
– looking for volunteers to answer phones – OES – public information lines, will train, tell you which questions you can and cannot answer and items you cannot address
– Tuolumne County OES office is a two person office!  Before Ethan’s arrival it was a one person office:  Tracie Riggs

Cory Peters, part of task force,  PG&E vegetation manager
– Request for Expanded Debris Management is necessary
– 1-800-pge-5000 with questions or wanting someone to come out an assess your property
– program not originally set up to tackle this mortality issue—-direction has definitely changed
– is a certified arborist
– PG&E will be patrolling Mi Wuk twice / year looking for and marking more dead trees
– additional tree crews and inspectors have been brought in
– ISA certified arborists are on site for patrols
– problem is/was to get debris off properties
– they are working hard to find solutions to debris
– trees are obviously continuing to die
– PG&E inspectors will be back through community this fall — will mark newly dead trees
– they want to help people maintain the safety of their home
– 18% of trees are dead in MW
– have hired debris management program people
– we are on north end of problem and it gets worse going south
– 4000 trees listed in MWV
– downed trees for the SPI mill on Standard Road – chipping logs as well as cutting appropriate logs into planks
– biomass will be reincorporated into infrastructure
– using rubber tire mounted equipment to get debris out of area.
– sign up today and inspectors will talk to homeowners on individual basis.
– program will be available throughout this year and beyond
– the Ponderosa Pine is doomed in our area

Jeff Sanders – part of task force, Cal Fire, division Chief Calif division of Forestry
– part of Tuolumne County core of mortaility team
– To homeowners:  try to maintain defensible space around structures during this difficult time

Charlie – Cal Trans – cleaning up Cal Trans right-of-way
– have changed focus of jobs in last months due to tree mortality
– have removed 3300 trees to date, estimate 7500 trees will be removed…..all along Hwy 108
– contact – maintenance service request  (dot = department of transportation)
– debris assistance program (I didn’t get the details on this point!)

Eric Hedrick – operations manager:  Phillips & Jordan vp, 60 yr old company,
– disaster recovery — he spent 2 years in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina
– expects to spend 3-5 yrs in CA with this current effort
– expert at private property cleanup
– hired by PG&E – the field is not new to Phillips & Jordan
– realizes this is a bad experience but they will make it as good an experience as possible.

Someone stated that the lumber from the downed trees could supply the California lumber industry for 100 years!


CAL TRANS:  trees not marked previously will be taken down.  No time frame.

– bark beetles attack pine trees.  What about cedars?  They are succumbing to the drought.  – As pine are killed the cedars are exposed to sun.. Called sun scull.  They don’t do well in sun and will be dying.
trees that are dead and not yet marked???  older dead trees are more of a risk than newly dead trees and trees will be felled in order of marking
– directions to tree crews is to remove unmarked trees in a spot where they are currently removing a bunch of trees.  That will not necessarily always happen due to other influences on crew’s schedules.
– no resources to stay ‘camped out’ in one spot.
pink markings on trees?  what’s that mean?  pink=county
– Homeowner doesn’t have to be present to have trees removed.
financial assistance for homeowners?  not at this time
– have applied for $4M grant from FEMA  (<<<Ethan)
– still trying to get a presidential declaration of disaster
– hazard mitigation grant – home owner will be liable for 25% of cost of debris cleanup
– Glen – AATCA – maybe by middle of September, Area 12 will determine eligibility
program will be to assist people who can’t cover costs financially.  Myst be 60 yr + or
disabled.  There is an income requirement
– Fire Safe Council – looking for funding from non-profit groups

Sierra Village – defensible space requirements?  and by when?
– inspectors from Cal Fire will be coming around.
– are taking pix of each lot inspected to show how lot looks at time of inspection.  This is by Cal Fire, not MWSPFPD inspectors.

Tree markings:  county = pink,  PG&E = white   Yellow?? – didn’t have answer
= private contractor = horizontal stripe

sequence of events? no answer

PG&E – clean up form is valid for project year

orange flag/ribbon:  ACRT???

right of way from OES???  no concrete answer

concern re liability – most likely the insurance company of contractor will pay.

time line on removing trees in MWV?
– 2 wks to 2 months to get debris out.
be proactive— get stakes, paint orange and show where septic or other dangerous spots are on property

Process for felling:
– form received
– depends upon crew working that area.

Right of Entry Form:
– A local resident has called Bigelow’s office and Berryhill’s office.
Dana Jorgensen can be called 209-223-0505, will be able to address verbiage questions
– up until local resident called our legislators offices, NO ONE has called re concerns with verbiage.  (from Blythe:  really!?)  If this is so, let’s get on it.  Call those offices.

There will be people who are affected who will not be covered by the PG&E or County programs unfortunately.

unimproved lot?  nothing in the 4291 code (that the defensive space program is built around) says property owner has to clear a lot that has no structure/s on it.  Tuolumne County has not taken it upon itself to provide a clean up ordinance for unimproved lots.  (from Blythe: as a property defensive space inspector, I have seen more than one lot that is a mess, has pine needles piled on lot from the adjacent lot owned by the same property owner.  This is despicable!!! We are trying to make our community safe for all, not exempt property owner responsibility!)

End of Notes.  I typed as fast as I could.  I know some statements are vague and incomplete.

By the way, the August copy of the Smoke Signals, Mi Wuk Area Homeowners Assn.’s quarterly newsletter, which goes out to ALL property owners in Mi Wuk/Sugar Pine, and will be mailed this next week, has almost all of the information stated at the meeting inside its covers.  There is a long article from Tracie Riggs, the fire department and a few others.  There’s also a membership form enclosed.  I encourage you to join.  $30/yr.  (It might be $32–I forget!).  When you join you’ll also receive the November, February and May issues.  There is always good information provided.

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  1. Avatar

    This was a great opportunity for the local community to hear directly from the Team(s) that are working with and for us to mitigate the tree mortality issue.

    I applaud all those working in our best interest, and I thought the Captain put it best regarding those who perhaps may not want to sign the waiver of liability – it is all about Risk Mitigation. Choose to do nothing and then you must pay to have the three removed (which i heard two people say 4-5 trees costing $20,000, or have PGE/County do so with limiting their liability. Make a decision, but no decision will result in a problem either way.

    1. Blythe

      Thanks so much for your comment Mark. Great re-explanation of the signing of the waiver of liability. It cannot be stated too many ways so that everyone “gets” it. ~Blythe

  2. Avatar

    As forests are a major carbon storage area, this has global consequences for our climate, for the multitude of forest-dwelling creatures, and for all who cherish a walk in the woods.

  3. Avatar

    Unfortunately, my wife and I miss attending the meeting about the Tree Mortality. We live on Golf Links Drive in Sugar Pine. We would like to know about the OES. We have not received one to sign. We have approximately twelve trees that have either died or are dying. One is on our property line and our neighbour’s home is right next to it. I have call our supervisor’s office and appearantly it’s our problem. I call PG & E and was told they will not be out until October or November.

    1. Blythe

      Dave, if you click on this link you’ll be taken back to a post from about a month ago. It includes a link to an online downloadable Right of Entry form. Download it, fill it out and mail it to the office indicated on the form. And keep watching the blog for more informative updates relating to the tree mortality issue. If this doesn’t answer your question please try again. PG&E will be starting to mark trees again in September (according to the meeting last Saturday) and then begin taking them down and hauling the debris once again. They want to finish falling the earlier marked trees first since they are the ones that ‘died’ first, hence creating a more urgent hazard. This pattern will continue from what I understand until the trees stop dying as they are right now.

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