Jul 29, 2019, 8:16 PM
I’ve been terrorized by PG&E for 18 months. Every promise broken, ignored. Every power-line inspector agreement grossly ignored. I live in a little island surrounded by land owned by Pacific Union College and a small power drop to three houses that comes through the forest on PUC land.
I have measured and marked centennial Ponderosa Pines that do not interfere with power lines as ‘DO NOT CUT”. Yet today, despite my request to not disturb this little forest, someone came onto the property and removed all the flagging I had placed to protect the trees and watershed. This same PUC land is the absolute headwaters channel of Conn Creek. Though ephemeral, Conn Creek is a clean, vigorous flowing steam well into the spring months and leading directly into Lake Hennessy.
Near my home, PG&E subcontractors have blown out a 50+ foot wide power-line clearing down to dirt and used bob cats and a track layer and excavator to remove downed trees. Despite the ‘special’ blue flagging indicating watercourse, the contractors have driven the excavator and bobcats through the Conn Creek stream bed. The creek is now destroyed and the hillside above it is laid to ruin. With coming rains, it will erode into the creek channel with debris, mud, silt and is highly altered.
I have requested, near my home, that downed trees and debris be removed without driving heavy equipment through the creek and that the sub-contractors stay off steep slopes. I have clearly asked that soil disturbance be minimized to protect the watershed and remaining tree canopy. All my requests have fallen on deaf, disorganized ears. Each day, new disheveled, uninformed and hostile out-of-state crews appear in Angwin. They are unsupervised and hell-bent on taking down more trees and making more money.
To date, I have documented sub-contractor crews from 24 US states working in Angwin/Deer Park. This work is a southern man’s gold rush. Each crew raking in the hours and pay as quickly and violently as possible with the attending and serious environmental damage going unregulated by county or state officials.
Water Source Pollution and Fire Risk Increase
PGE sub-contractors abide by one rule: that of the fastest path to profit. This is an epic disaster in progress with serious negative implications for water sources and increased fire danger.
This should be of great concern to the cities of Napa and St Helena as the erosion, silt, and debris will end up in their reservoirs. From a fire risk standpoint, the remaining forest canopy is vulnerable to edge effect, windthrow and increased reflected surface heat. These once shaded areas are now laid open to colonization by aggressive, flammable no- native annual grasses which greatly increases the wildfire threat while supposedly reducing the PG&E “liability”.
I have high concern for the potential for the introduction of invasive species and disease organisms coming off uncleaned trucks and equipment imported from half the nation. Piles of multi-source wood chips marked as ‘Free Mulch’ have been spread across Howell Mountain. This is the fast track for sudden oak death spread.
The use of sub-contractors from across the country additionally skates California’s air quality regulations as these antiquated equipment behemoths leak oil and hydraulic fluid, and spew black carbon into the air. California state and Napa county clean air and vehicle policies are completely ignored.
I have seen no evidence that critical pest detection and quarantine regulations are being considered and that any phytosanitary regulations are being enforced. How many millions of dollars do pest infestations cost the people of California? What if this affects wine grapes? Or introduces the Asian Long Horn Borer, Gypsy Moth, Spotted Lantern Fly?
Who is regulating the workers for safety compliance? Is Cal OSHA involved? Are workers observed being ‘trained’ in chain saw use and tree climbing in the back of the Angwin Market truly working safely?
Unmonitored and Unsupervised
I will only briefly mention the boom trucks and grappling trucks, no license plates, company names obscured with spray paint, staged and unmoving for months on end behind the Angwin Market and question who is reviewing billing for this? Who watches, who cares? How are the financial interests of the ratepayers being protected by ragtag disaster companies billing from 3,000 miles away?
And in the get them where they might actually give a shit category, are subcontractors From Alabama, setting up job trailers here in Napa County with years of work on the horizon paying local taxes? Prevailing wages? North Carolina? Missouri? Mississippi? Florida? Arkansas? Texas? Georgia? North Dakota, New Hampshire? Illinois? Maine? Ohio? 24/states recorded to date.
Gold Rush Greed and Rapacious Behavior
Local landowners are catching onto the ‘gold rush’ and have actually had free tree clearing work done by sub-contractors and land cleared for vineyard development well beyond any required power-line safety guidelines. I’ve got video and photos to document this egregious behavior.
Tomorrow may be the showdown for me with these hillbilly crews. I am absolutely NOT letting them on my neighbor’s property to unnecessarily take these trees or do further damage to the Conn Creek headwaters. A healthy watershed is a public resource.
I respect each of you and know you have the interest of our community at heart. But this is NOT how power line safety work should happen. The County and the State are way behind on waking up to what is happening here. As I was told by a PGE worker today ‘This is the new gold rush.’ And the gold is simply cutting down the forest in the most barbaric fashion and hauling the trees away as trash. This damage is NOT permitted for any other development, why is this ignored?
Will any of our elected officials or staff persons actually take the time to come to Angwin to see what is going down? Or are you going to let me do the hot and heavy lifting, a la Bremer, while you sit safely in your cubicle? National journalists are here watching, the time for plausible ignorance is behind you.
At your service,