Some 500 trees will need to come down to clear an existing power-line corridor in Camp Sherman.
A proposed project in the recreational area west of Sisters will establish a 20-foot-wide corridor and upgrade 131 poles along 13 miles of Central Electric Cooperative power line right-of-way across National Forest land.
The project will, in part, mitigate against the danger of the kind of fire that occurred in November 2018 in Paradise, California, when high winds caused PG&E power lines to malfunction, which in turn sparked what would become the deadliest and most costly wildfire in California history.
“This proposal came to us last year, so that was post-Paradise and we wanted to be mindful of that,” said Sisters District Ranger Ian Reid.
CEC Director of Member & Public Relations Brent ten Pas confirmed that mitigation of fire danger is a primary focus of the $1.2-million project.
The project will replace poles that were originally installed in 1940. the current poles are 35 feet tall with a four-foot crossbeam; the replacement poles will stand at 45 feet with an eight-foot crossbeam. ten Pas said that the added height, which offers greater ground clearance, and the broader crossbeam allow poles to be set farther apart, which will improve safety.
Burying the power lines in the area is not a practical alternative, according to Reid.
“First of all, it would be very expensive,” he said. “And there would be a lot of ground disturbance to bury them.”
According to ten Pas, “To bury the lines, the general rule of thumb is that costs are generally 2 to 1 more expensive. Each project is unique and expenses can vary significantly due to location, terrain, soil, digging, and unforeseen issues.”
Reid said that the trees have been GPS located, tallied and marked. He said that the number of 500 trees is “a pretty tight number,” though “there’s a little bit of wiggle room just in case there’s some ancillary lines going to come off to the tract homes out there in Camp Sherman.”
The trees are categorized as small, medium and large, with the “large” category starting at 20 inches in diameter. Reid estimated that the largest tree marked for felling is 52 inches.
“The bulk of the trees are in the small-to-medium category,” Reid said, but “there are definitely some large trees in that corridor that are going to be felled.”
The trees that will be cut are those within 10 feet of the center line of the corridor that pose a danger of falling into power lines.
Most of the felled trees will be sold as forest product, with about 40 to be used for in-stream habitat enhancement projects.
A decision on the project is set for March, because the Forest Service is “trying to get CEC authorized to get out there and do that work this spring,” Reid said.