Facts about the proposed Temporary Sorting and Debris Reduction (TSDR) operation at the corner of Triangle and East Westfall

Thanks to everyone who is interested in an update on some of the questions about a Temporary Sorting and Debris Reduction (TSDR) Operation at the corner of Triangle and East Westfall.  Since I’ve been working with County staff and our partner agencies to identify a location for such an Operation for several months, here’s what I can tell you.

First, I just want to mention why the project is happening. PG&E is felling trees in many areas in the County, reducing threats to their power lines, our infrastructure and people’s houses.  Rather than leaving the trees on the ground, they want to move trees larger than 4”diameter and 6’ lengths to a place where they can be sorted and moved out of the County.   PG&E has contracted with Phillips & Jordan (P&J) to mange the removal effort.  Some logs will be shipped to China; the remainder will be chipped and likely taken to biomass plants in Fresno and/or Sonora.  These actions will reduce PG&E ratepayer costs for the program.  PG&E will remove trees they’ve felled to protect their power lines in 2016 and for the next 2 years within 100 feet of homes and within 20 feet of accessible roadways. This will not only reduce PG&E’s potential liabilities, but it will also benefit our area, our friends and our neighbors by felling and removing dead trees from around people’s homes (assisting compliance with Defensible Space requirements) and along our roads (helping with ingress / egress issues) at no charge to the homeowner or the County.

Native American (archeological) cultural sites –  – Lois Martin, leader of the Mariposa Tribal Council, has been involved in reviewing the property.  There have been some sites (grinding rocks) identified as important to Native Americans; those sites will be off limits for workers at the TSDR site. The larger grinding rocks can be seen in the map above, northwest of the stock pond near the clump of oaks in the larger meadow, and one can get an idea of the proximity of those grinding rocks to the nearby homes and more distant small clearing where the project will be located. A second grinding rock was identified to the west of the truck entrance and very near E. Westfall Road. Here is a larger version of the map. Lois Martin will continue to be involved as the project moves forward; PG&E’s archeologist will contact her to advise her of any additional Native American artifacts or other resources they discover.  In addition, Len Nielson (RPF with our local CAL FIRE unit) and a California state archeologist conducted an independent assessment and didn’t locate any resources in the proposed project area.

Site Restoration – P&J will conduct baseline environmental sampling and take photographs prior to commencing operations.  When the project is complete, the site will be restored or improved through planting beneficial vegetation.

Noise – It’s understandable that residents close to the site are worried about noise. We’ve all heard chain saws and chippers going in our neighborhoods as it is, and this will be another source.  A consultant to P&J is conducting a noise characterization study in and around the site to measure ambient noise.  That information will be evaluated against the noise of the chipper (the noisiest piece of equipment to be used at the site) and P&J will take action to reduce the noise level to reasonable levels.

Diesel – The Mariposa County Health Department analyzed the risks associated with the diesel exposure, based on 27 truck trips per day over 30 years.  A significant risk score is 10 or higher.  Even for houses less than 100 meters (300 feet) from the road, the average risk associated with this project comes in at about a quarter of that at 2.59, and far less for folks further away.  P&J intends to require contractors working at the project site to use equipment at lower emissions levels; that should help as well.  The County Health Department will, of course, continue to monitor the situation after the project starts including installing air monitoring equipment like the unit shown on the right.

Water – Phillips and Jordan (P&J) does not intend to use any water from the site.  The water required by the County Fire Marshall for fire protection and any necessary for operations at the site will be brought in from other areas.

Traffic –The increase in traffic resulting from this project is estimated to be 27 trucks per day, or about 1 truck in and out every 20 minutes during the 9 hours per day.   In 2008 a Public Works survey of traffic in the E. Westfall area measured 280 trips per day so, while this project will increase traffic, it will only be by about 20%.

Safety – Safety is paramount. We already have logging trucks on our narrow roads as is; we want to make sure the new logging trucks are driven safely.  P&J will conduct a safety briefing each morning before the workday begins to ensure that all drivers and other workers understand the restrictions imposed.  For example, if it’s determined that speed limits for trucks should be restricted, that information will be reinforced each morning.  If residents see unsafe driving, I would urge them to contact the Sheriff’s department or CHP depending on where they see the trucks.

Endangered species – No endangered, threatened or listed species have been identified in the area.  We are awaiting final confirmation and, if any are found, appropriate mitigations will be implemented.

Old Oaks – While this doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention, it’s important to point out that the old oak trees along the driveway to the project site will be protected.  Their root lines will be fenced off to prevent damage from trucks.

Road Maintenance – Mariposa Public Works intends to repair the roads as needed just as they do on Jerseydale and other roads damaged by traffic.  P&J may provide some assistance if our Public Works Director thinks it’s appropriate.

Signage – P&J and Mariposa Public Works will discuss appropriate signs at the entrance to the site and along the road.  Signs that indicate that trucks may be entering the road will be posted as well as other signs if appropriate.

Mr. Stookey’s motives – He has fond memories of Mariposa and that particular site and wants to help the Mariposa community address the Tree Mortality disaster.

Site Selection – A number of County employees participated in efforts to identify and evaluate potential sites.  Don Florence, County Office of Emergency Services, and I spoke on many occasions with partner organizations in the Mariposa County Tree Mortality Disaster Mitigation Committee.  We spoke with U.S. Forest Service representatives from the Stanislaus and Sierra National Forests.  I spoke with Yosemite National Park and the Mother Lode Office of the Bureau of Land Management.  Don evaluated County owned sites in conjunction with the County Surveyor.  We all spoke with private landowners.  To comply with the Governor’s Proclamation, CAL FIRE prepared a list of potential sites; that list included Caltrans sites, some of which are being used now to support Caltrans tree removal efforts along Highway 49.  PG&E and P&J had separate lists of private property owners that they evaluated.  Factors used to evaluate the sites included operational (Such as, size of the parcel and usable acreage?  How close to tree felling operations?  How close to major roads?  Safety of trucks entering and leaving the road?)  Environmental (Is it a seasonally wet area?  How close to riparian areas?  Are there endangered, threatened or listed species?)  Owner interest (Are they willing to sign a lease?  What level of restoration work would be required?  What price are they asking?)  In spite of all this outreach, the site at East Westfall and Triangle Road was the only option left to us.  The Board has authorized use of that site for this project for 2 years.