New Bay Bridge Project Sparks Search for Healthy Trees

By NBC Bay Area Staff
|  Thursday, Jul 25, 2013  |  Updated 9:39 AM PDT
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The state is looking for Canary Island Palm Trees. George Kiriyama reports.

The state is looking for Canary Island Palm Trees. George Kiriyama reports.

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Commuters on the Bay Bridge may soon be greeted by exotic palm trees with California roots.

The state has launched a search for Canary Island palm trees from San Diego to Sacramento, on both private and public property, to decorate the new Bay Bridge toll plaza.

"We are looking for developed and fully grown and mature, large palms," said state arborist Joshua Zinn.

A Santa Clara woman says the State of California wants to buy the 40-year-old Canary Island palm tree rooted in her front lawn. If it passes a health inspection, it will join the more than 65 other trees on the bridge.

It costs the state about $4,500 to remove a tree. Elisa Gomez is thrilled that her tree was selected. The state will pay her $1,500 for her palm, though she said it holds a value of a different kind.

"It is sentimental, because my husband plant it there," Gomez said.

Crews took samples of the tree's roots and branches on Wednesday so they can be tested for disease.

"This has been a really effective work that has prevented us from acquiring palms that may be infected with a pathogen," Zinn said.

Once the tree gets a clean bill of health, it needs to pass a removal test. This means no utilities or gas lines can be near the tree.

The goal is to have all the trees relocated by Labor Day weekend, which is the original opening day for the bridge. It has since been pushed back to December to repair cracks in the seismic safety bolts on the eastern span.

The bridge has cost the state $6.3 billion so far, up from the projected price tag of $1.1 billion.

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