Several Chico farmers are angry with PG&E after the company cut down several of their almond trees; farmers say the company had no right to do that, but a PG&E spokesman says it did.
“It's issues just like this is the reason why family farms are going out of business, because they can't afford to take impacts like this,” said Mendonca Orchards Foreman Andrew Mendonca.
This is a 4th generation farm that's been there almost 100 years.
It is a medium-sized farm: they have about 900 acres in Butte and Glenn Counties and about 100 acres of mostly almonds in Chico, and – on Friday morning – PG&E cut down 61 of their trees.
Before they bought the farm, in 1938, the city of Chico gave PG&E an easement.
“A right-of-way to transmit power from point A to point B with a path alongside it, and the easement stated that we can't build anything or drill a well within 15 feet of the power lines,” Mendonca said.
Last year, PG&E sent the farm a letter saying they are going to cut down trees that are within 25 feet of the powerlines, which is 61.
Mendonca says they can't do that; he said they have the right to trim and cut trees, but it has to be within reason and the farm has to agree.
“It also says that we can use the property to our full enjoyment; however, our enjoyment and PG&E’s enjoyment and their rights kind of contradict each other.”
PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno, on the other hand, says they actually can do it.
He said that original easement didn't specify a width, it just said, upon their discretion, they can take out any tree they believe poses a hazard.
He said they are doing this more and more now because regulators have recently imposed stricter requirements to prevent power outages and address other safety concerns.
Mendonca says this is a huge loss for them. He said they earn about $50 a year from each tree, so they'll lose about $3,500 just this year.
“Over a 30-year span, which is the lifespan of these trees, you’re going to lose over $120,000 because they cut these out.”
Mendonca says they're not sure what they're going to do with that about 2/3 of an acre of land.
They're not allowed to plant almond or walnut trees there because of the powerlines, which means they are going to lose even more money from that plot.
The Mendoncas could have taken advantage of the orchard incentive program and received almost $18,000 as compensation, but they did not think that was a fair compensation and wanted to fight for the land instead.
Paul Moreno says they can still take advantage of the program.
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