California Has a Plan to Protect Motorists from Tahoe’s Toppling Trees

Trees falling onto motorists travelling along the highway can be deadly. This has proved to be a consistent problem in the Tahoe Basin area year after year, season after season. In September, California Public Service workers will begin cutting down trees that are drought-weakened or dead. This major statewide effort attempts to protect motorists from falling trees.

Earlier this year, during heavy winter snowstorm weather on Highway 89, a tree fell into the roadway and killed a Tahoe City woman as she drove in her car in Squaw Valley. Other mountain highways near the lake have also experienced tragic crashes caused by falling limbs and trees. Highway 89 will be where crews begin their work. A $115 million California safety campaign has made it possible for crews to have already cut more than 100,00 dead trees all over the state on state property next to highways.

The next step in the process begins after Labor Day when crews will begin cutting trees on private property that sits adjacent to highways. According to the State Department of Transportation, crews are instructed to approach private dwellings and ask for permission to cut the trees at the states expense. The trees must be dead and in danger of obstructing the roadway to be cut down. Once trees are marked to be cut, property owners will receive a Permission to Enter form in the mail within one to six months. It is illegal for the state to cut down trees on private property without the owner’s permission. Some dead trees on private property have already been marked along highways around Tahoe including 28, 50, 89, and 267, which are all used heavily by skiers and winter sports enthusiasts.

Many counties from the mountain area of east Sacramento have been named high hazard areas because of the amount of falling trees each year. Ten counties were named the worst; Fresno, El Dorado, Calaveras, Amador, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Placer and Tulare. The work Caltrans is doing in these counties is part of a larger, statewide project enlisting public and private companies to cut down trees killed by drought or bark beetles. The Tree Mortality Task Force of California heads up the effort.

The previous five years of consecutive drought has killed over 102 million hardwood and conifer trees in the state of California.   

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