By Leigh Martinez

MANTECA (CBS13) — People living in Manteca say the drought has killed several trees along Highway 120, leaving an eyesore. But a state rule to control erosion may require them to stay.

The small trees are held up with stakes, and a Manteca business owner says he’s concerned the trees may have been neglected, and that the project was a waste of taxpayer money.

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“Our goal at the interchanges, we’d like to present attractive highway corridors,” said Caltrans spokesman Rick Estrada.

But a few Manteca homeowners say they’re not—instead, the trees look brown and dying. A Manteca wastewater official told CBS13 it’s a Caltrans project, and says a state requirement for highway construction may require restored ground cover.

“If they had knowingly planted plants they know they’re not going to take care of, that’s a waste of money,” said homeowner Jim Ricketts.

Estrada says it doesn’t have a watering system, but explains the plants are drought resistant.

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“We used tanker trucks to water the plants. The plan is to water them for three years after three years, typically, drought-resistant plants are healthy enough to sustain on their own,” he said.

A retired heavy equipment operator thinks the plants sit low enough to get enough water.

“There was actually water seeping in when we took the dirt out. I think the ground is saturated with water,” he said.

But the plants were added in different years, and Caltrans says it’s possible some didn’t get enough water after the transportation department cut back 50 percent of its water use.

Because of CBS13 viewer concerns, Caltrans is going out to look at the trees.

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“We’re scheduling now to have Caltrans go out and assess the condition of the plants. It is important that people have a good impression as they drive through Manteca,” Estrada said.