A battle is brewing in wine country, and it has nothing to do with the latest vintage. Thousands of trees in Sonoma County are slated to be chopped down in the interest of public safety.
PG&E is clearing trees along The Geysers all the way down to Petaluma. The 39-mile stretch is supposed to help keep power lines from being damaged by the brush. The utility is following a 2007 federal mandate to keep its grid clear or it could face strict fines of $1 million a day if power outages are caused by natural vegetation.
But not everyone in Sonoma County is on board with the project. Residents say it will destroy the natural beauty of the area and the environment. Local groups and politicians are trying to stop it through legislative measures.
Tree cutting came to the forefront back in 2003 when a blackout was blamed for keeping tens of millions of people in the dark in the Northeast.
PG&E has since cleared about 90 percent of its 6,800 miles of transmission lines around the state. It hopes to finish the project by springtime before the start of fire season.