NEVADA CITY (CBS13) — Pacific Gas and Electric and the community of Nevada City have clashed over the past two years after the utility company downed hundreds of trees that kept small businesses from operating.
In an effort to protect the area from wildfires, PG&E is working to underground some of its power lines. But despite the good intentions, small businesses and community members are frustrated by what they say is poor planning and slow progress.
READ MORE: Governor Newsom Highlights Abortion Rights in New Ad Campaign Following Supreme Court Leak
Brandon Jonutz, known as Tarzan, and his tenacious band of tree keepers went up against California’s largest utility company and won. He slept in a tree in Nevada City for weeks after PG&E scheduled 300 to be removed.
“Don’t come in like a steamroller, because we will continue to do so,” he said at his protest in November 2020.
Tarzan instead instructed the company to cut trees away from power lines. PG&E finally agreed and Tarzan celebrated by descending on a proposal from his now wife Tess Athena.
“It was really beautiful,” said Athena, who is also an environmental activist. “It brought more of a fairy tale magic to our relationship, but it put a stain on our hearts.”
PG&E eventually felled some trees deemed unsafe. but it turns out that it could have been for nothing as the trouble-causing power lines are now moved underground.
READ MORE: Tracy High School Teacher accused of having multiple relationships with students
“These are trees that are 150 years old, and we just cut them down as if nothing had happened,” Athena said.
PG&E said the project had been discussed for years, but at the time the trees were felled, Nevada City had not yet raised funds to begin digging the lines.
“Residents here in Broad Street in their business have been impacted,” Athena said. “A lot of people, houses, residents are upset by this and it’s for nothing and it’s upsetting.”
Local business owners say PG&E in Nevada City has suspended their business for more than a year and a half.
“It cost us a lot of business income,” said Nevada City resident and business owner Julie Carrara.
Julie and Ron Carrara own the Broad Street Inn where PG&E has been under construction since fall 2020.
“People couldn’t stay here. There were several times when the trees were going to be cut down and PG&E told us and we would cancel our guests, ”said Julie Carrara. “When they shut you down, it’s huge for us.”
NO MORE NEWS: 84-year-old Stockton ice cream vendor held at gunpoint, suspects still at large
The Carraras said that project should be completed this summer and they are worried about their future if not.