The following is a news release from Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART):
Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) announced Thursday that it is suspending the scheduling for the removal of a chimera coast redwood located within the railroad right-of-way at the intersection of East Cotati Avenue and the tracks, pending additional verification of expert analysis, as well as investigation of options.
"SMART is a local project. We are building something that will be part of the community. There is no question that we have to comply with safety requirements, and within that we have and will continue to take extreme care with the environmental elements of the project," stated SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. "Therefore, although we have been very proactive in doing due diligence, I have halted the process to take the time to bring in additional independent experts to examine and verify the analysis that was performed in September 2012, as part of our environmental permitting, for this specific tree."
The tree is located within approximately 10 feet of the centerline of the second track to be installed in this location, and abuts the foundation of a structure on private property at the edge of the railroad right-of-way. The right-of-way in this location is about 60 feet wide, and will accommodate two tracks and the multi-use pathway. SMART is required to comply with Federal Railroad Administration safety clearances for safe train operations.
The arborist report that was commissioned in 2012 for this specific tree states that the tree is a chimera coast redwood. It concludes that this tree was planted in the right-of-way of the historic 1850's era Northwestern Pacific Railroad approximately 45 years ago by a private individual, likely as a landscape ornamental.
The report analyzed the options of meeting the safety clearances through extensive pruning, but concluded that in addition to requiring removal of all branches and foliage on the east side of the tree, the tree's systemic health would be undermined by the track construction and the tree cannot survive in its present location. It would also become prone to wind throw, within falling distance of both the track and adjacent private property, thus creating a public safety hazard.
The report notes about 60 chimera coast redwoods have been documented within the native coast redwood range south of Del Norte County, mostly protected in parks or in locations that are kept secret from the general public to prevent over-collection of foliage. The report also states that the number of documented chimeras is a significant underestimation due to lack of access to a large percentage of the redwood forest. It indicates that the subject tree receives no statutory protection under State or Federal Laws.
SMART will consult with additional independent experts to verify the report's conclusions and determine if other options exist relative to the tree.
The SMART train and pathway project is currently under construction and will provide a new regional transportation backbone with improved transit options for all North Bay residents.