Critics Say Feds Skirt Tree-Cutting Rules

SACRAMENTO -- Tree supporters in Sacramento say the General Services Administration didn't follow its own rules when it went ahead with a solar panel project that will result in cutting down 61 trees.

The trees are in and around the parking lot of the Federal Building at 2800 Cottage Avenue. The 600 car parking lot will be covered by a solar panel array that is expected to almost entirely power the building, which houses 800 workers.

But members of Trees for Sacramento say employees alerted them to the plan, which apparently wasn't revealed to local regulatory agencies. They say the parking lot will be torn up and that changes in drainage will also affect nearby creeks and sloughs.

"With anything to do with clean water or tree removal, they have to disclose that early on," said Judith Lamare of Trees for Sacramento.

The group says there is no telling what alternatives would have been offered if the plan was put under public scrutiny and the proper environmental assessments were made.

The GSA says the plan calls for replacing the removed trees with drought resistant trees on other parts of the property. GSA officials say revamping the parking lot will improve drainage and create ways to filter runoff as well.

Apparently the GSA has contacted county planning agencies and the state water board regarding the project, which is already underway. A number of trees have already been removed. But critics say the effort is a little late.

"The did not contact them at all until Trees for Sacramento started to complain two or three weeks ago," said Jim Pachl of Trees for Sacramento.