Main Street Palm Tree Removals Upset Brawley Residents
BY CHRIS FURGUSON
Several residents within the City of Brawley are upset at the cutting and impending removal of over a dozen palm trees on the western side of town along Main Street. The cuttings occurred on Friday, April 7, 2017 and were performed by the Imperial Irrigation District with the full knowledge of CalTrans.
The main reason given by IID personnel on site was that the leaves and frond posed a danger to a nearby power lines connected to a transformer. If the lines are cut by the tree’s fronds, the loss of power could affect most of the residents of the city.
“IID is federally mandated to patrol lines and remove and/or trim trees that are too close to our lines,” said Marion Champion, the IID’s Public Affair’s officer. “In addition to being too close to our lines, the trees in question also had structural deficits, such as base cracks or heavy lean which made them a danger to the public.”
According to an IID official, CalTrans requested their help in removing six trees posed a danger to pedestrians. Onsite inspection of the trees increased that number to fourteen.
On Friday morning, the top portion of the trees in question were removed by the IID. Removal of the remainder of the trees by CalTrans is expected to take place next week.
The City of Brawley was not made aware of the decision to remove the trees until Friday morning, said to City Manager Rosanna Moore. Moore added that the trees were supposed to be removed prior to the last Cattle Call weekend in 2016, but that a requested delay was granted.
“The City received no advance notice from IID or Caltrans regarding the date of work to be performed,” added Mayor Sam Couchman. Moore added that while advanced notification is a welcome courtesy gesture, City approval was not needed for the tree removal since the IID and CalTrans have jurisdiction over the street.
CalTrans controls the western part of Main Street, starting on First Street, while the IID has an easement agreement with the state for their power lines..
The trees in question were located on the same block as the Vons Shopping Center on the western half of the city. The trees had been the subject of negotiations between the IID, the City and the Brawley Beautification Inc. group that was against the removal.
A meeting between the three groups took place several years ago in Brawley to discuss the removal and possible alternatives, including replacing the original trees with shorter trees. It is not known if other meetings took place between the entities.
Reaction from Brawley locals was mixed, with some expressing outrage at the sudden removal. “Those trees were there before the power lines,” said Anne L, a resident of the area. “If this happened anywhere else, the IID would have buried the lines instead of removing the trees.”
Other residents believed that there was a double standard about the trees along Main Street. “I drive down Main Street every day,” said Josie D, a store clerk within the city. “I see palm trees on the east side of the city growing into the power lines, but nothing gets done about that.”
While nothing is set in stone for possible replacement of the trees, Mayor Couchman did express optimism. “The City is encouraged by recent statements from IID that reasonable replacement may still be possible,” stated Mayor Couchman.