By Paul Moreno
CHICO — PG&E will fly low by helicopter in the hills of Butte and Yuba counties next week to check for drought-stricken trees near power lines.
Flights will occur Tuesday (March 7) near the communities of Honcut, Bangor, Rackerby, Loma Rica and Dobbins.
Residents are advised that the helicopter will fly low — about 200 to 300 feet — along distribution power lines.
PG&E is using a contract helicopter service to fly foresters to check for trees weakened by the drought. This patrol is in addition to the annual patrols PG&E conducts along power lines to identify trees and vegetation in need of pruning and removal. Weakened trees and branches can fall into power lines, leading to outages and even wild land fires.
The drought has weakened and killed many trees and left others susceptible to disease or insects. After the flights, foresters will hike to the trees in question for a closer inspection to verify tree conditions. Once a forester confirms a tree needs to be removed, PG&E will work with the property owner to schedule a contractor to cut the tree.
Consecutive years of drought have taken a toll on trees and even some trees deemed healthy six months ago have since succumbed to the effects of the drought.
The U.S. Forest Service recently identified an exponentially growing rate of tree mortality in California. In 2014, 11 million dead trees were identified throughout the state. That number grew to 40 million in 2015 and 102 million in 2016.
While tree mortality is more serious in 10 counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region, the Forest Service also identified increasing mortality in the northern part of the state.
Weather permitting, flights will occur between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
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