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Jenner Jottings - Tim McKusick - July 2015


Jenner Jottings - Tim McKusick - July 2015

Summer has Highway One buzzing along the Sonoma Coast. With temperatures inland heading into triple digits, our pristine coastline is the ideal place to seek relief. Parked cars are once again lining up outside the locked gates of some of our more popular State Beaches. A sad state of affairs, indeed.

The communities along the Russian River are busy getting ready for the July 4 holiday and other summer festivities. Bicyclists are everywhere. Tour companies set packs of them loose on our scenic highways and byways. I cringe every time I see a logging truck race by, knowing that just around the narrow blind curve in the road is a tourist on a bike about to have an encounter he will never forget.

It baffles me how anyone can relax and enjoy the scenery on a bike ride with cars and trucks whizzing by literally inches away. Along the Highway One corridor, a State-long hiking/biking trail is being built. Some sections have been completed. The section through Sonoma County has been studied and the tentative right-of-way mapped. It would be a giant boost to our tourism economy to see that it gets built.

On that note, I would like to throw out an idea: A combination easement. Combine the need for underground utility ductwork (for aesthetic and health/safety reasons) with the need for a safe hiking and biking easement.

A perfect example where this concept can be put into play is our Ft Ross-Timber Cove area at the coast. In Timber Cove, a majority of the forest fires have been due to trees falling on power lines. Trees are not going to stop falling anytime soon, so undergrounding the utilities is the prudent thing to do.

PG&E actually has a program to help retrofit overhead electrical lines to underground: Rule 20-A. Currently the Timber Cove Community is petitioning the Board of Supervisors (who administer the Rule 20-A work list) to be placed on this list at the highest priority. With the coastal Pine forests showing signs of drought-related stress, having the power lines underground out of harm’s way is imperative. And time is of the essence.

Which brings me back to my idea, the combination trail/power-communication easements.

Recent Community meetings to discuss the Sonoma County section of the Coastal Trail showed that the most probable location for the trail is along the shoulder area of Highway One. Coincidentally the power line overhead lines run a parallel pathway just off the highway through private property. Why not have the power and communication companies subsidize the installation of underground ductwork over which we can have the trail easement? In most cases it would mean simply widening the highway along one shoulder.

Everyone would benefit from it from an aesthetic standpoint. The danger of a catastrophic wild fire caused by trees on power lines is averted, surely saving lives and property in the long run. The power and communication companies would have easy access to their infrastructure for upgrades and maintenance. 911 capability would be achieved along the entire stretch of the trail, greatly enhancing the peace of mind of the trail experience. The private property owners’ values would surely be enhanced, being rid of the unsightly dangerous lines. I cannot think of a downside to this combination trail concept.

Think of it: Our beautiful coastal landscape minus the monster telephone and power cables; with a safe hiking and biking trail network through this world-class paradise we call home.