What is the bark beetle problem all about?
In San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, hundreds of thousands of trees, weakened by years of drought in mountainous regions, are dead or dying due to widespread infestation by an insect called the bark beetle. On March 7, 2003, Gov. Gray Davis proclaimed a state of emergency in the three affected counties. The situation poses a potential hazard to the people and property in the affected communities that we serve, as well as to our facilities. Areas most heavily impacted by the infestation include Idyllwild, Wrightwood, and Lake Arrowhead. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) estimates that nearly a million trees already have died. The number of dead trees will continue to increase as the bark beetle infestation spreads.
Why is SCE concerned about this problem and what is its role?
Dead or dying trees pose a danger to local residents, and dead trees near power lines pose a threat to electric service reliability for the affected areas. In April 2003, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) directed SCE and other utilities in the affected counties to take all reasonable and necessary actions to remove trees that could pose safety hazards and cause electric service interruptions by falling on power lines. Pursuant to this order, SCE has developed a comprehensive program to remove dead or dying trees in the affected areas within its service territory. The company is committed to performing its work as quickly and safely as possible. The company also is committed to keeping customers and major stakeholders in the affected areas informed of its activities and progress. SCE will also provide useful information to property owners and customers about their roles and responsibilities and how to cope during this long-term tree removal process.
What is SCE doing about removing the many trees killed by the bark beetle?
To accelerate the tree removal process and maintain electric service reliability for the affected communities, we have taken steps beyond our regular line clearing activities and are, in fact, cutting to the ground dead or dying trees that could fall on our facilities. We have hired additional contract tree removal and line maintenance crews to assist with the tree removal activities. We currently are working seven days a week on this problem and will continue to work with government agencies to prioritize tree removals. Because of the scope and complexity of this effort, it will take more than five years to remove the trees.
TREE REMOVAL IMPACTS & SAFETY TIPS
How will SCE’s tree removal efforts impact my community and my electric service?
In order for our tree removal crews to work safely and efficiently, it will be necessary to interrupt or shut down some power lines, in some cases more than once and possibly for more than 24 hours. Additionally, because of all the tree removal work expected in the affected areas, residents will have to deal with road closures, increased traffic and noise, worker vehicles, cranes, equipment, etc., while the work is being completed. We will try to notify you of our work activities so you can plan for them in advance.
What should I do if my electric power goes out?
To better cope with any scheduled or unscheduled power outage, we advise our customers to:
o Check on the medical needs of family and friends.
o Use flashlights. Don’t use candles, which if used improperly, can start fires.
o Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible during an outage. A well-filled, unopened freezer will keep food frozen for hours without electricity.
o Turn off all electrical equipment in use at the time of a service interruption, including sensitive electronic components. Leave one light bulb turned on to signal that power has been restored.
o Never connect a portable generator directly to a power line. State law requires that customers inform us when a generator is being used at a home or business. Call us at 1-800-655-4555.
Will customers in the affected communities be notified before planned power outages occur?
We will attempt to notify customers of scheduled tree removals and power outages before work begins. If it becomes necessary for us to remove trees on your property that threaten our facilities, we will contact you typically two weeks before they are scheduled for removal. However, it may not be possible to provide advance notification in all instances, particularly in cases involving a significant potential hazard requiring urgent attention.
TREE REMOVAL ON PRIVATE PROPERTY
Will SCE remove trees on private property?
Yes, we will remove dead or dying trees determined by company personnel to threaten our power lines.
What should a customer do about removing trees that threaten service wires strung from a pole to a building or dwelling?
We will remove dead or dying trees that threaten our power lines, as determined by our experts. Property owners have the option of hiring a tree trimmer to perform this work. We strongly urge them to use only experienced, licensed or certified arborists qualified to remove trees near power lines.
Customers who want us to temporarily drop their service wires while removing trees should call 1-800-640-3652. There is no charge for this service, but we need a minimum notice of five business days.
If you observe a tree in contact with a power line that is strung between power poles, please call us at 1-800-640-3652.
Should I wait to have SCE remove dead or dying trees on my property that can impact your electrical lines/facilities?
Removing dead or dying trees ahead of the priority schedule established by SCE and the various agencies involved is a personal choice each property owner must make. We encourage property owners who elect to remove trees to use only licensed and qualified tree removal contractors to perform this work.
How do I find a qualifying arborist?
There are qualified arborists listed in you telephone book’s yellow pages and at reputable nurseries. The best way to assure you are dealing with a licensed arborist tree removal company is to contact the state licensing board to confirm the company’s license number and length of professional experience.
How will I know which trees SCE will remove?
SCE is compiling an inventory of all trees-healthy, dying or dead-taller than their horizontal distance from our facilities. The dead or dying trees will be marked alphanumerically. We are cataloguing the trees based upon priorities set by state and local agencies.
Typically two weeks before removing trees, an SCE representative will mark the specific trees they plan to remove.
Then, if possible, they will notify in person the property owner or residents about the removals. If no one is home, a door hanger will be left with the name and phone number of the SCE representative who marked the trees.
When will SCE remove the trees on my property?
A tree removal schedule is being developed based on the removal priorities established by the Mountain Area Safety Task Force (MAST), a coalition of local, state and federal agencies working with us to combat the bark beetle problem. SCE’s tree removal schedule is designed to give maximum flexibility to field personnel while minimizing any inconvenience to residents in the affected areas. That schedule will be posted on this Web site as soon as it is available. We will publicize the online posting through the media and in a letter to all property owners.
What is meant by the reference to “trees that could impact our power lines?”
Any tree or any part of a tree that could fall into our power lines is a tree that could impact our lines. For example, the top portion of a 100-foot-tall tree rooted 70 feet from one of our power lines could fall right through the wires in a wind storm.
How do I get on the list to have my trees removed by SCE?
You really don’t have to do anything. Your trees will be included in the inventory we are conducting of all trees in the affected bark beetle areas.
How long will it take SCE to remove all of the trees that could impact its lines?
We expect this effort to take more than six years to complete.
Will SCE replace the trees it removes?
At this time, we are not replanting trees. Our primary focus is reducing the potential hazards posed by so many dead and dying trees threatening our power lines. However, we are willing and able to cooperate with community and agency programs to replant trees in the affected areas. We prefer to see more small-stature trees in the developed areas around our facilities. Any replanting should be done according to the recommendations of state and federal foresters. Property owners interested in planting trees can go to the tree trimming section of www.SCE.com for information on the best types of trees to plant around power lines
I just received a notice of a planned outage in my neighborhood. The timing is not good for me. How do I get it changed?
That won’t be possible, since SCE coordinates its tree removal efforts with local, state, and federal agencies. We will work as quickly as possible to minimize the inconvenience.
Why won’t SCE remove all of my trees?
On April 3, 2003, the CPUC ordered SCE to remove only those trees that pose a potential hazard to our power lines. Due to the hundreds of thousands of trees to be removed and strict removal schedules, our crews are not able to remove trees that do not pose a threat to our power lines.
When SCE is on my property removing trees that could impact its power lines, can you remove my other trees if I pay for the removal?
For the reasons stated in above, we cannot work out such arrangements. You will need to secure the tree trimming and removal services of an experienced, qualified arborist.
Does SCE’s removal of trees on private property relieve the property owner of any responsibility or legal obligation before the tree is removed?
No. Property owners continue to be responsible for their trees in accordance with federal, state and local laws.
What is SCE’s role in San Bernardino County’s Block Tree Removal Program?
San Bernardino County’s Block Tree Removal Program helps citizens remove dead or dying trees on their property infested by the bark beetle. Funded through federal grants, the program’s “block coordinators” identify specific groups of properties needing bark beetle-infested dead or dying trees removed. After the block coordinators notify SCE of where they have inspected, we identify those dead or dying trees that could fall into our electrical lines. We schedule for removal the trees we are responsible for, and the county’s block coordinators, on behalf of the property owners, obtain the lowest bids for the removal of the remaining dead or dying trees, which SCE is not responsible for. After a property owner accepts the lowest bids obtained by the county and signs a contract, the tree removals are scheduled.
To learn more about the Block Tree Removal Program or to seek help in finding a qualified tree removal company, please call the San Bernardino County Fire Dept. at (909) 337-1225.
What will SCE do with trees it removes?
We will dispose of all timber and residue quickly and efficiently. If possible, the timber will be sold to offset the costs of removing the trees. Given the current low price for wood and the expected glut resulting from the bark beetle infestation, the proceeds from timber sales won’t begin to pay the cost of cutting and removing trees.
Would SCE leave the felled wood on my property for firewood if I ask?
No, we will not be leaving felled wood behind. The CPUC has directed utilities to cooperate with local, state and federal governmental agencies to identify and remove those dead or dying trees that could impact their distribution and transmission lines within Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.
REIMBURSEMENTS & CLAIMS
I removed trees from my property after April 3, 2003. Can I get reimbursed for my removal costs?
Yes, if you meet the eligibility requirements. The CPUC recently authorized SCE to reimburse eligible property owners who since April 3, 2003 remove infected trees that could fall upon utility power lines.
April 3 was designated as the start date for reimbursements, because that is when the CPUC ordered SCE and other regulated electric utilities to take all reasonable steps to identify and remove dead, dying or diseased trees threatening power lines in the bark beetle-infected areas.
How can I get reimbursed for my tree removal costs?
We have a process in place to reimburse qualifying property owners for their costs for tree removal since April 3, 2003.
How will SCE determine the amount I will be reimbursed for trees I removed that would have impacted SCE’s electrical lines/facilities?
For tree removal work that meets our guidelines, property owners will be reimbursed for either their actual tree removal costs or SCE’s average tree removal costs-whichever is lower. SCE’s average cost will be determined based on a variety of factors, including height of tree, diameter of tree at breast height, location of tree on property, accessibility to the tree, and need for special equipment such as a crane. You should be aware that due to the large volume of trees SCE is removing, our average tree removal cost may be lower than what an individual property owner might have to pay to remove a tree.
How long will it take SCE to process my reimbursement request?
Approximately 90 days after receipt of a completed
I have removed trees prior to April 3, 2003 which SCE would have eventually removed. When can I get reimbursed?
We are not authorized by the CPUC to reimburse for trees removed prior to April 3, 2003.
I had trees removed on or after April 3, 2003, but no longer have an invoice. What should I do?
We cannot process a Request for Reimbursement Form without an invoice for the tree removal costs. If you do not have an invoice, contact your contractor for a duplicate copy of the invoice.
I had my tree stump removed. Can I still get reimbursed?
If the tree stump is removed, we are unable to independently determine the height, size and location of the removed tree. Thus, we will need additional documentation. One form of acceptable documentation is a letter from your tree contractor indicating the date the tree and stump were removed, estimated height of tree, diameter at breast height and specific location of the tree on the property. If your tree contractor is not able to provide this information, please send in your Request for Reimbursement Form with a note stating the contractor can not provide the required information and we will contact you to determine whether other documentation would be satisfactory.
Will SCE send a representative to pre-approve trees I’m planning on removing?
Due to the hundreds of thousands of dead or dying trees that could impact our electrical lines/facilities, we are not able to pre-approve eligibility for reimbursement.
How long do I have to submit a request for reimbursement?
For trees removed between April 3, 2003 and October 15, 2003, the request for reimbursement needs to be postmarked by December 15, 2003. For trees removed after October 15, 2003, the request needs to be postmarked within 60 days of the tree removal date.
If I submit a request for reimbursement and I have more trees that I remove in the future, am I prevented from receiving reimbursement for the additional trees removed?
No, SCE will reimburse you for all eligible trees you remove on or after April 3, 2003, as long as the CPUC continues to authorize reimbursement. Please make sure to note on your subsequent Request for Reimbursement Form that you previously submitted a request for reimbursement.
Why are your foresters videotaping or filming my trees?
Though it may appear that way, our foresters really aren’t videotaping or filming trees. What you are seeing are foresters using instruments to calculate and measure the height of trees and their distance from our power lines, as part of our inventory process. This must be done if we are to accurately identify and remove those dead or dying trees threatening our power lines.
During a scheduled outage for tree removal, my refrigerator and freezer were off for more than 24 hours, and all of my food spoiled. How do I file a claim against SCE?
Based upon these facts alone, this is not the kind of claim SCE typically honors, especially when customers are notified of scheduled outages. However, the company’s claims procedure is outlined at www.sce.com/claims, or you can call our Claims Department at 1-800-251-3311 for instructions about filing a claim.
Claims and proper documentation can be sent to:
Southern California Edison
Attention: Claims Department
P.O. Box 900
Rosemead, CA 91770
You can also fax forms and documents to: (626) 569-2573.
SCE’s acceptance of claim forms and documents does not imply that we will honor a claim. Each claim is considered on a case-by-case basis before SCE decides to accept or deny it.
This printed FAQ document will be updated periodically. To ensure that you have the most current FAQ and other tree removal program information, visit us online at www.sce.com/barkbeetle.
MAST Talking Points – Questions and Answers
Now that Governor Gray Davis has declared a state of emergency, how will it benefit private land/home owners?
Introduces the possibility of low interest rate federal loans to private homeowners;
allows available state (CDF) resources to be tasked to support emergency activities on private lands; reduces regulations with Caltrans; provides relief in tight air quality restrictions for South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD); relief in AQMD Section 118, restrictions will help in the establishment of an air curtain destructor; streamline National Environmental Protection Act. It opens the opportunity for the state to present the disaster declaration to the federal government.
How do I decide that my trees are dead?
We are talking about conifers (pines, firs, and cedars) with needles and cones. Trees that are completely reddish to all brown are dead. These trees should be removed when they start to change color. If the tree is removed before the next generation of pine beetles emerge, those insects will not be able to attack other green trees.
Will my trees turn green after a good rainy season?
Conifers that turn brown are dead. No amount of water or fertilizer will help them return to a healthy condition. Oaks and many broad-leaved deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall. During periods of severe water stress, they may lose their leaves earlier than normal.
What is killing my pine trees?
The combination of water stress and several species of pine beetles plus warmer than normal weather. The trees are weakened by lack of water, allowing pine beetles to attack the trees, and the tree’s defense system is unable to reject the attack.. The warm weather enables the beetles to reproduce in extremely large numbers. The large numbers of beetles kill the trees quickly.
What do I do with the dead trees after they are cut?
We recommend having a tree removal company remove the tree and all branches immediately from your lot. The quick removal of a dying tree may prevent surrounding trees from becoming infested. Once the tree starts turning brown, have the tree removed immediately.
Is there a conspiracy?
Were bark beetles dumped in the San Bernardino National Forest area by somebody trying to harm mountain residents and visitors?
No. Bark beetles and other tree-killing forest pests are a natural part of the San Bernardino National Forest. The outbreak of beetles is due to an unprecedented four -year drought. The most effective natural enemy of the bark beetle is tree sap. Because the trees are so parched, they are unable to produce the sap that kills the beetles, thus creating an epidemic number of tree killing bark beetles.
How catastrophic will a fire be in drought stricken areas this spring/summer, if one starts?
Under normal conditions (low to moderate wind and relatively cool, damp weather) a fire in drought stricken areas should be able to be controlled by firefighters. However, with intense winds and extremely hot and dry weather a fast moving, damaging wildfire is possible.
I just moved here because I heard you need forest workers. I want a job. Where do I go?
You can obtain a list of contractors that are working in the area from the San Bernardino County Fire Dept. and contact those businesses for employment; 909/386-8101
I own a licensed timber removal company and just moved into the area. How do I bid on a timber sale with the San Bernardino National Forest?
You can be added to the Forest Service bidders list to be notified of all timber sale bid opportunities and receive bid packages and information. If (and only if) you are a licensed operator, call Jon Regelbrugge at 909-499-8988 to get on this list.
Will watering trees in my yard help them survive?
Yes. If done properly, watering native trees in your yard can help them survive the drought, and possibly fend off insect and disease attacks. Watering needs to be done at the drip-line of the tree (an imaginary line extending vertically from the edge of the canopy), not at the tree trunk. Watering at the trunk can promote root disease and further weaken the tree. “Deep watering” is the best way to water native trees. This entails a deep, slow soaking done at intervals such that the soil surface (down about 6 inches deep) dries out between watering. Watering too often is unhealthy – remember, these trees are adapted to infrequent rain. During the summer, the best time to water is after dark because that allows the water to soak deeper and the soil moisture levels to stay high for longer periods of time. Please remember to follow your local water district’s watering restrictions.
How can I keep my trees alive and healthy?
See above guidelines about watering trees. Additionally, the trees should be thinned so that the number of trees is reduced to provide adequate growing space. The number of all plants should be no more than the site can support. Foresters, arborists, and horticultural consultants can help a homeowner decide what the site can support.
What am I looking for when I request to see the contractor’s Insurance Certificate, California License and Workers Compensation?
Any contractor’s license can be checked for status and validity at www.cslb.ca.gov.
Will my Home Owners Policy cover the tree removal or damage caused by the tree falling?
Most homeowner’s policies do not cover tree removal or damage caused by removal. You may be covered, however, if you are paying a premium for such coverage or are unaware of the hazard. Generally, homeowners are responsible for tree removal and property damage from falling trees.
How long will a tree remain standing once it has been infested by bark beetles?
The length of time that an infested tree will remain standing is highly variable. Generally, the larger the tree is, the longer it will stand. Many trees may fall or drop large branches or treetops within 2-5 years of mortality, especially if the tree has root or trunk rot. The species of tree is a determining factor as well. Coulter Pine and White Fir deteriorate and break up faster than Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pine, Sugar Pine, Incense Cedar and Bigcone Douglas Fir.
How can I tell the difference between drought stress and bark beetle infestation?
Bark beetle infested tree foliage turns straw-colored in at least one section of the tree or quite often the whole tree. A drought stressed tree has very slow growth and is often killed by other parasites like the flat-headed boarer, dwarf mistletoe and root disease.
Does code enforcement play a part in the tree removal?
I want to buy a small mill and produce wood products such as furniture. How do I get access to wood, legally?
Contact timber contractors that are working in the area and make arrangements through them.
There are dead trees on San Bernardino National Forest property adjacent to my private property. The trees are posing a hazard to my family and I. I want them removed. How do I make that happen?
Contact the San Bernardino National Forest and inform them of the situation. Make sure you give your name, phone number, address (physical and e-mail) and description of the problem. The San Bernardino National Forest can be reached at (909) 382-2600.
What is Caltrans doing about the tree problem?
Caltrans maintains trees along state highways. Caltrans has been mapping the locations of dead trees and will continue to work with the California Department of Forestry (CDF) and San Bernardino National Forest (US Forest Service) concerning problem tree removal. Caltrans does not remove any trees unless CDF and Forest Service approve. It may be difficult to identify which agency or private contractor you see working near roadways because workers uniforms are often the same color. To identify whether Caltrans is doing the work, look for the CT (Caltrans) logo.
Why does Caltrans close roads?
There are many reasons traffic controls can be necessary. One is to help ensure worker and public safety while a tree removal effort is underway.
Will applying a pesticide to my trees help them survive?
It is unclear whether or not any one pesticide will save a tree or group of trees. Because the beetles live under the bark, the beetles are naturally protected from direct contact with the pesticide. Many pesticide distributors claim that the pesticide will kill the beetle as it emerges from the tree. If true, every square inch of the tree must be sprayed by the pesticide to be effective.
Should I buy foam to protect my house in the event of a wildfire? If so, what kind?
There are a number of foam products on the market that have proven effective in wildfire situations by homeowners. MAST does not endorse a specific brand, but does recommend research into systems designed for home use prior to purchasing.
Why not seed the clouds?
The idea of cloud seeding according to the experts was to place increased particulate material in the clouds in order to provide moisture molecules more avenues to turn into rain drops. There is no way to know if cloud seeding increases or has ever increased the amount of rain that would have fallen if the cloud seeding had not taken place. It was also a very costly effort financially and was one of the reasons the program was stopped.