Criticized for its role in several catastrophic California wildfires, state utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric is on a mission to clear trees near power lines that could topple and hit lines causing fires.
But is the giant utility going too far? A group of Sacramentans is saying yes.
Some members of the Save the American River Association and the American River Parkway Coalition and others are fighting to stop PG&E from cutting down what they estimate could be 100 cottonwood and oak trees near a major electricity transmission line that runs through the parkway near Discovery Park.
That includes trees flanking the paved recreation trail, they say, based on blue dots the utility appears recently to have sprayed on trees. Saying they fear the utility company is overreacting, the group’s representatives say they want the utility company and the county, which oversees the parkway, to show evidence that trees need to be cut down rather than pruned.
“We do not think that process and planning should be thrown to the wind in a panic over the global problem of dealing with wildfires in California,” the river association’s Betsy Weiland said. “What is the real fire risk here?”
The disputed treeline in Sacramento runs for about a half mile along the north edge of the parkway, south of the Garden Highway and east of Discovery Park.
Weiland’s complaint echoes one earlier this year by some Napa residents who felt PG&E was overzealous in cutting trees there.
PG&E officials say the parkway tree-cutting and brush-clearing project, which could start this month, is part of ambitious maintenance and fire-risk reduction work the company has been doing around the state since 2008 after the California Public Utilities Commission toughened its safety and outage regulations.
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The Jedediah Smith Memorial trail will be closed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. between miles 16 and 17 Friday because of a controlled burn conducted by the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.
If weather and air quality permit, the burn will take place in the American River Parkway near Ambassador Drive, according to the American River Parkway Foundation.
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Sacramento Fire Department crews responded to three fires Sunday through early Monday morning, with at least one considered “suspicious” by investigators.
Fire personnel responded Sunday afternoon to a fire that started near North 10th and North B Street. Fire Department spokesman Capt. Keith Wade said no suspect had been located, but the “highly suspicious” blaze ignited outside a recycling plant before spreading into the unit. That fire was extinguished about 5 p.m., authorities said.
Wade said the fire may have started near a homeless encampment in the area, and is being investigated as a possible arson.
Another fire, around 11:30 p.m. Sunday in the Lower American River Parkway, also broke out in a homeless encampment, Wade said. The 1-acre fire took three engines about an hour to put out, he said.
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The American River Parkway Foundation collected more than 20,176 of pounds – more than 10 tons – of trash Saturday from the American River in just three hours, according to the group who organized the event.
From 9 a.m. to noon, more than 1,200 volunteers scoured a 26-mile stretch of the American River Parkway from Discovery Park in Sacramento to Negro Bar Recreation Area in Folsom for the foundation’s annual Great American River Cleanup. The event is held annually in conjunction with the California Coastal Cleanup Day.
“Our biggest cleanup of the year is underway! Excitement is in the air – thanks to all who are helping remove trash and debris from the American River Parkway this morning,” ARPF said in a post on its Facebook page.
Volunteers removed more than 27,000 pounds of trash during last year’s cleanup, ARPF said.
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Two separate rescue efforts brought out five people trapped late Thursday in the American River canyon near Auburn.
The first rescue took place at about 5 p.m. after a report of four people trapped onshore after swimming across the middle fork American River near the confluence and then not being able to swim back because of sudden, higher river flows from a regular upstream dam release.
Two hours later, another canyon rescue was needed using a California Highway Patrol helicopter after an Auburn State Recreation Visitor injured an ankle and was unable to scale a steep canyon wall to walk out.
Superintendent Mike Howard said today that the four people – two men and two women in their 20s from the Elk Grove area – were able to partly walk out before being spotted by a search helicopter and met by a ranger, who helped them get back to the confluence.
Both rescues took place in an area upstream from the confluence, near a treacherous stretch of rapids called Murderer’s Bar.
In the second incident, two people had crossed the middle fork while it was still low and were unable to swim back when the level rose and the current got stronger. Placer County Water Agency releases water from upstream reservoirs for power generation and the higher flows normally arrive at the confluence by mid-afternoon or later.
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As temperatures rise and the Fourth of July holiday approaches, first responders are warning people to be careful along waterways.
Thursday, California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division Air Operations posted video of a hoist rescue they had to do that day.
Apparently, a person who was swimming near the Middle Fork of the American River got trapped by fast currents on the south side of the river. The swimmer suffered a leg injury and couldn’t hike out, so a helicopter rescue was needed.
CHP Helicopter H-24 flew in and hoisted the swimmer up and out of the area and over to the Old Forest Hill Road Bridge, where an ambulance was waiting.
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New construction is in the works in the Folsom Historic District to create Folsom’s first Class IV bike lanes which is expected to be completed in September.
The Lake Natoma Trail Gap Closure Project limits are along the north side of Leidesdorff Street and Riley Street extending from Reading Street to Scott Street. The construction began in early May.
The protected Class IV bike trail coming up from Lake Natoma will allow bicyclists an exclusive 12-feet-wide lane, separate from vehicles and pedestrians. A parallel sidewalk will also be built for pedestrians.
“It’s the first Class IV bike trail, which is a little different for the first one the city has,” said Jim Konopka, senior park planner for the City of Folsom. “That’s a busy area in the Historic District, so we didn’t want to try to mix bikes and pedestrians in that area.”
To help cyclists navigate, the new bike lane will be colored red instead of the standard black asphalt.
“That’s going to help people realize that once you’re on [the lane], just follow that colored trail. That way, they really can’t get lost,” Konopka said. “A big problem is that inexperienced cyclists will come on to the trails. If we have that particular pavement colored, I think it would make it easier for [cyclists] to identify where they are and where they go.”
Traffic has been shifted to accommodate construction, but road closures should not be expected.
“The first phase we started now; we basically moved traffic over. As we move down with construction, you’ll still have two-way traffic,” Konopka said. “The only drawback is cyclists. They happen to compete with the smaller lanes of traffic for that short time.”
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A vegetation fire spread to a building at a fish hatchery in Sacramento County, Tuesday evening.
Crews were called out to a fire near the American River trail just before 8 p.m. When firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to a two-story attached garage at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, according to the Sacramento Fire Department.
The garage functions as a live-in facility for workers at the hatchery, authorities said. Workers were at the scene, but everyone made it outside uninjured. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
The Nimbus Fish Hatchery is located along the American River, in the 2000 block of Nimbus Road in Gold River; a community located just to the east northeast of Sacramento.
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A man who was rescuing a child who had fallen into the American River near Kyburz Saturday afternoon ended up drowning himself, after successfully saving the little one’s life, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
Mir-Khaled Ahmad, 41, from Vacaville, jumped into the river near Randall Tract in the American River Canyon off Highway 50 after seeing the child fall from a rock and into the rapidly moving river shortly before 2:30 p.m.
The rescuer and another person onshore were able to save the child, but tragically Ahmad was swept downriver immediately afterward, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
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The El Dorado County Community Development Services – Department of Transportation has scheduled the annual Mosquito Bridge maintenance beginning Monday July 9.
Dates are as follows and project dates are estimates based on favorable weather conditions: Daily closures starting Monday, July 9 through Thursday, July 27 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The historical Mosquito Bridge over the South Fork of the American River north of Placerville was built in 1867. Annual maintenance is required to keep the bridge safe and functional. The county bridge crew will be replacing the damaged railing timbers.
During the time of the bridge closure, motorists will need to use Highway 193 to Rock Creek Road as a detour. Slower speeds and caution are highly recommended.
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