With permits in place, city cuts airport trees | TahoeDailyTribune.com

With permits in place, city cuts airport trees

Adam Jensen
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Lake Tahoe Airport manager Rick Jenkins inspects an area of tree removal near the runway.

Over the past month, approximately 300 trees have been limbed, topped or removed at the Lake Tahoe Airport in order to meet state and federal aviation safety requirements.

Hand crews, aided by a 90-foot crane and a low-ground-pressure Bobcat, are being used to cut as many as 408 trees along the east side of the airport.

Barring weather delays, the project could wrap up by the end of next week, according to Rick Jenkins, airport manager.

In March 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration and the California Division of Aeronautics put the airport on notice about the number of trees intruding into areas required to be obstruction-free.

If the trees were left in place, they could pose a danger to pilots using the airport, Jenkins said on Monday.

In January, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency offered a $500,000 settlement to the city in response to the alleged improperly permitted cutting of 387 trees at the north end of the airport in May 2006.

Negotiations between the city and the TRPA in regard to payment of the settlement are on-going, according to Rick Angelocci, assistant city manager for South Lake Tahoe.

This time around, the city went through an 18-month permitting process including approvals from CALFIRE, the TRPA, Lahontan Water Board and California Tahoe Conservancy.

Conservancy permits were required because much of the tree-cutting is taking place on conservancy-owned property.

These permits include requirements designed to minimize the impact to the Upper Truckee River, which runs just east of where most of the trees are being cut.

“This particular stream environment zone has been heavily disturbed because of airport construction,” Lauri Kemper, supervising engineer with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, said last week.

Cranes are being restricted to 19 designated areas along the east side of the runway to limit the amount of soil disturbance caused by the crane.

Further mitigation measures include leaving stumps to stabilize river banks, spreading wood chips, and planting willows in areas where trees have been cut to provide shade and bank stabilization for the river.

“All we wanted to do was make it safer, and if we could help some people in the process, we felt that was the way to go,” Jenkins said Monday.

Chips from the trees are being used for erosion control in the area burned by the Angora fire, and some of the trees will be made available as fire wood for seniors and the disabled through the Nevada Fire Safe Council.

While the program has delivered 40 cords of wood from several local sources so far this season, it needs help to fill the demand of wood-seeking seniors and the disabled before the bulk of winter hits.

“We’re kind of stuck until we get more volunteers,” John Pickett, California coordinator for the Nevada Fire Safe Council, said Monday.

Those interested in volunteering to help Nevada Fire Safe Council distribute wood from the current tree cutting at the airport to the elderly and disabled should contact Dee Angle at (530) 541-8313.

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