By Macy Jenkins

COLFAX (CBS13) — Caltrans is working to remove more than 11,000 dead trees across the Sierra. It’s part of an effort that began two years ago after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to address the problem.

“We look at live trees, we look at dead trees, and we make assessments of all of those trees on which may be a hazard to the public,” said Amy Nichols, the Project Coordinator for Davey Resource Group.

Every day, she walks up and down Highway 174 looking for trees that could be hazardous.

“We’ve walked over 600 miles,” she told CBS13. “We collect some basic information about the tree, the diameter of the tree, height of the tree and, of course, the species.”

So far, her team has marked 132 trees in orange along Highway 174.

“We also look for disease,” Nichols said. “Such things pine beetle; we’re seeing a lot of that in the coniferous forest.”

The reason for their efforts? Dying and diseased trees fuel fire and create road hazards, according to Caltrans.

“Once those determinations have been made, then Caltrans will contract a tree removal expert to actually take down the trees, some of which are very, very tall,” said Liza Whitmore, a spokesperson for Caltrans District 3.

On Interstate 80, they’ve marked and/or removed 2,000 trees, 1,800 on Highway 89, 1,500 on Highway 20, and 1,725 on Highway 50.

Of the thousands of trees across the Sierra marked for removal, only some of them have been cut down so far. And Caltrans says if the tree is on private property, they talk to the homeowner first before they take any action.

Frank Wengryn lives along Highway 174 and has three dead trees near his front fence.

“If it should snap off and [drivers] are comin’ around the corner or something, they don’t know what hit them,” he said.

Last week, Wengryn got a visit from Caltrans saying they’d remove his trees for free.

“If they don’t have to fight a fire, homes are saved, lives are saved, everybody’s saved,” Wengryn said. “And if they’ve got the money for that, use it for that and not for something else!”

Whitmore told CBS 13 the state has spent an estimated $4 million on Highway 174 alone.

Next year, the trees marked on Highway 174 will be removed. Homeowners do have the option to keep the wood after the trees are removed. But if they don’t want Caltrans to cut their tree down, they are liable for any damaged caused if the tree falls.

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