Wednesday, March 28, 2012

PG & E - Up to their old Tricks? Or Looking out for you and me?

PG and E wants to cut down acres of trees in Sonoma, along their utility line route. Just looking out for the public health and safety (in line with their previous stellar track record)? or looking out for the bottom line and hoping not to get sued, yet again. At least they are holding a meeting this time...

After years of trimming, this is a new policy.  What do you think?
PG&E to hold meeting on big Sonoma County tree-cutting plan

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7:41 p.m.
PG&E officials will host a community meeting Thursday to address concerns from landowners that a revamped maintenance plan will mean cutting down thousands of trees in a 39-mile stretch of high voltage lines through Sonoma County.


PG&E tree-cutting plan

A community meeting to discuss PG&E’s plans to cut thousands of trees under high-voltage power lines across Sonoma County will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Bennett Valley Fire Department, 6161 Bennett Valley Rd.
The plan has come under criticism in recent weeks as landowners have discovered in some cases hundreds of trees marked with tell-tale blue paint that PG&E said means the trees are targeted not for pruning, but removal.
PG&E officials said the move is spurred in part by federal regulations that have increased penalties for outages and other incidents. But homeowners called for a meeting to hear why a decades-old strategy of pruning and select removal is seemingly being abandoned.
“PG&E has not really been open and not really been honest, I think, about the plans,” said Tom Birdsall, who has owned 41 acres on Sonoma Mountain Road for the past decade.
In that time, PG&E has successfully pruned growth on his property three or four times without issue, Birdsall said.
“It’s our belief that the trimming of trees for 50 years has worked just fine,” he said.
The 39-mile path stretches from The Geysers to Petaluma. A 2003 blackout blamed on trees that cut power to 50 million people in the Northeast put new focus on hazards that vegetation can pose to the nation’s power supply.
In 2007, under a federal mandate, North American Electric Reliability Corp., an organization of the nation’s electrical grid operators, came up with more robust standards for utilities.
A focus of Thursday’s meeting is to reach “a mutually acceptable way of providing safety and reliability,” PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers said.
“As a company, PG&E shares the same appreciation of trees as our customers,” she said. “Right now we are really focusing on reaching out to our customers.”
Some annual work must be complete by the start of the fire season which typically begins around May 15, while the remaining work is expected to be finished by year’s end, Ehlers said.
Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, who owns property in Oakmont where high-power lines stretch across the sky, has introduced AB2556 that he says will prevent PG&E from having “carte blanche” to clearcut trees.
“Initially they said they were doing this in response to federal legislation, but federal legislation did not say you had to clear cut,” he said.
“They don’t need a black eye on this either,” he said. “We are trying to do this cooperatively.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Know your Boundaries

I get so many questions on boundary issues, relating to trees, easements, fences and other neighbor disputes, I have to say, "Homeowners, do you  know where your property's boundary lines are?"  

If not, you could have a problem. You need to find out where your property ends and the next property begins, now, before you get into a dispute with your neighbor.  As unlikely as you may think that is to happen, it happens all too frequently.  Take these simple steps and understand your property lines now:

1. Survey your property.  For this you need a licensed land surveyor (caveat, I am talking about California law, but I believe most, if not all, states require some kind of licensing protocol for land surveyors) who can draw up a survey to be recorded in your County or future reference. Keep a copy for yourself.

The surveyor will also set boundary markers, so that you can see the property borders at a glance.  These are usually metal pipes or similar markers.  Caution:  malicious neighbors have been known to move or destroy markers. That's why the recorded survey is essential.

2. Check with the County to see if a survey is on file already.  Then check your property's markers to see if they are in the right place.  If a dispute arises, you may need to back up any claim and having some knowledge ahead of time will save money in the long run. 

3. Check your neighbor's property in the recorder's office too, to make sure his survey doesn't conflict with yours. Yes, this happens, even with recorded survey.  

4. Do not rely on the parcel map filed when your subdivision was created. These show only the placement of the lots in relation to each other and the surrounding parcels, and are not reliable for determining where the actual boundary lines are on the ground.

5. Stay on good terms with your neighbors.  Friendly relations do not guarantee there will be no future disputes, but they can go a long way to minimizing animosity and long drawn out legal battles.  If a dispute arises, suggest mediation, with a neutral surveyor hired by both parties to help solve the issue, and a professional land use mediator to help you work out differences.

Good luck in staying out of court and on good terms with your neighbors.  A nice talk over the back fence can work wonders for good neighbor relations.