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Tree Trimmers Hope To Clear Danger Before Rain And Wind

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

If El Nino weather hits the Sacramento region, tree trimmers from Sacramento Municipal Utility District will likely be part of the cleanup effort. Crews are working to remove threats before the storms hit.

On any given day, Jose Beltran is in a bucket high above the ground and inches from a power line with a chainsaw in his hands. He is one of about 100 people in SMUD's tree-trimming crew. His crew has been trimming along the back side of the Cordova Golf Course.

They cycle through the distribution and high voltage power lines every three years looking for threats to power lines and trees that are likely to fall.

Steve Hallmark is SMUD's vegetation manager. He says it's SMUD's policy to clear branches twelve feet from power lines, but sometimes trees beyond that distance  fall into the lines.

"The trees that cause us problems in an el nino year or any other year when we have a significant storm are typically those trees from  outside of our right of way that we really have no control over -especially if we've had heavy rain storms and then we get high winds.That combination seems to be the worst case scenario."


Hallmark says the drought has affected more trees in the foothills and higher elevations than in the valleys.

The utility operates about 10,000 miles of distribution and high voltage power lines between Sacramento and the Union Valley Power  House in Eldorado County.

"It's not as much in the valley. Where we are seeing it though is up in the foothills and up in the mountains where our transmission system  goes that feeds from the hydroelectric facilities, we are seeing an increase decline and death of trees in the foothills and in the Sierra."
Fourteen of the 2400 SMUD outages last year were from trees or limbs into power lines.

The utility contracts with companies from southern California and Iowa for the work. Hallmark says no northern California companies bid for the contracts. 


Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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