Dying Trees Along Highway 50 to be Removed

EL DORADO COUNTY -- Take just about any stretch of scenic Highway 50, and you'll come across brown patches of dead or dying trees. The prolonged drought and the dreaded bark beetle have wiped out an estimated 66 million trees across the state.

Along the Highway 50 corridor, Gov. Jerry Brown's drought-related state of emergency effort is about to begin.

"This is going on all across the state," explained Steve Nelson with Caltrans. "For us here near Highway 50, it's where we are now, in Camino, all the way up to Echo Summit. So it's about 40 miles of Highway 50."

Caltrans is leading this state-funded, multi-agency charge. The tree removal part of the project is set to begin Oct. 17 and last into the spring. The Highway 50 corridor clean up of approximately 1,700 trees comes with a $3.3 million pricetag and includes tree removal only for homes or businesses that are within 100 feet of Highway 50.

"Safety. I mean, that's the number one thing," said Nelson. "They are a threat to the highway if they fall over onto the highway, and there is also the wildfire threat. So, it's two-pronged. But for us, it's highway safety and wildfire."

At a community meeting Thursday evening, questions from residents and business owners were not about if the tree removal should happen, rather will this particular emergency effort be enough?

"This project is great ... for the highways," warned Richard Morris.

He is one of the many in the county who believes the situation with dead or dying trees gets worse the farther you move into rural areas.

"We don't know what to do, and I don't see any concrete help coming from the state," Morris added.

Ingress, egress, and life safety are the goals initially here. That's how one representative of Cal Fire described the plan at Thursday's meeting -- reducing the potential for life and safety hazards along those corridors, county roads and state highways.