Old Oak Trees to be Cut Down for Pipeline

Ed Southern and his wife own land in Texas that is on the planned 61 miles of new pipeline being constructed from the Eagle Ford Shale to the Houston Ship Channel. Kinder Morgan, a natural gas pipeline company, is laying down the pipeline.

Southern was offered $54,000 for the pipeline to run through the property, but when he realized that the pipeline would go through an oak grove that had been on the property for generations, he countered the offer by asking for an increase in reimbursement so he could replant 12 oak trees. The oak trees to be cut down are important for shade for cattle on the land as well as supplying acorns used in cattle feed.

The Kinder representative countered the new offer with less than a third of what was requested. “They’ll pay for grass, they’ll pay for the fence they tear down, but they told me they don’t pay for trees,” said Southern. Southern decided to go ahead and sign the agreement, but was served soon after the signing with an eminent domain lawsuit, which allows the company to go ahead with plans and the landowner is unable to keep them out.

Once the trees are cut down, new trees can’t be planted near the pipeline so that the pipeline will be free of roots. Southern is unhappy to see his old oak trees cut down – some he thinks are over 100 years old – but he’s trying to accept it.


Mapping to Proactively Reduce Sudden Oak Disease and Death

Designed to help protect historic heritage trees, a comprehensive map, called SODMAP, details the spread of sudden oak death – a tree-killing microbe. The disease is spreading from the forested hills into residential areas all over the Bay Area, and it has already killed hundreds of thousands of oak trees from southern Oregon to Big Sur. The map is to be updated annually to track the movement of the disease, which will help cities and counties plan projects to keep the disease from spreading and to preserve healthy trees.

The disease, most aggressive during the rainy season, was discovered in Mill Valley in 1995. It kills both big oak trees and the smaller tan oaks. Other plants, like the California bay laurel, camellia, and rhododendron, are host plants of the disease. Any oak less than 0.6 miles from the disease is at a high risk of becoming infected. The disease is also spread through the water. Arborists and ecologists predict that in 25 years, 90% of California’s live oaks could die from the disease.

This map may counteract this worst-case scenario. “People need to know that if they can take action before their trees are infected, then they can really slow down the rate of infection and minimize the number of trees that are infected,” says MatteoGarbelotto, a UC Berkeley forest pathologist who helped create the map. “The biggest hindrance to protecting oaks is that people don’t think about it until the trees are infected, so the more we let people know there are these tools, the more they will know they can do things to make things better.”

There are three recommendations to help mitigate the spread of the disease:
1. Remove California bay laurels that are near oaks – this increases the survival rate of oaks tenfold.
2. Use phosphonate spray – it’s effective against the disease.
3. Avoid big projects like soil removal, grading, or tree pruning during the rainy season in infected areas.


Oak Tree

Armillaria root rot, Armillaria mellea, is often correlated with oaks and other hardwoods throughout California. The disease, which is a root fungus, attacks trees that are often found in urban landscapes as a result of excessive moisture in the soil. This is typically caused by overwatering in the landscape induced by excess irrigation and not allowing proper time for the roots to soak up the water and let the soil dry out. When too much moisture is in the soil, an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment is created. As a result, roots become starved to death by not having any oxygen in the soil. The roots eventually are not able to absorb water and will begin to die- off over time.

Some of the symptoms associated with armillaria root rot can be thinning of the canopy, dieback in the branches, oozing of fluid near the base of the trunk and mushrooms (fruiting bodies) at or near the base of the trunk. Thinning of the canopy occurs when leaves begin to fall prematurely at the ends of branches and no new growth occurs. The tree will appear to have a less dense canopy over a period of time. Dieback in the branches occurs when branches begin to experience discoloration and drying; they will have very little (if any) leaves attached to the branch. When oozing occurs at the base of the trunk, a dark thick liquid substance excretes from the bark, which gives the appearance that the tree is bleeding. Mushrooms are fruiting bodies that indicate that there is more than likely decay at or near the location of the mushrooms. They resemble the appearance of culinary fungi mushrooms commercially grown and purchased at the grocery store but are not edible.

Other factors that contribute to the disease can be compaction of the soil that is experienced during construction activity around or near the tree. Equipment that is stored near the tree can compact the soil due to the weight of the machinery. Equipment used for excavation can also damage trees by severing or crushing roots, even if only minimal disruption has occurred. Adding fill, dirt, to existing soil around or at the base of tree is not recommended as well because the added soil can increase weight and decrease oxygen in the soil where the roots lay causing unfavorable growing conditions for roots.

Once the tree is infected with the disease, it is more than likely the tree will decline over a period of time and in some cases lead to death or failure of the tree. Areas prone to high winds may cause the tree to topple over and fall. At this time, there are no cures for this disease; one of the mitigations for this disease is to check the soil and irrigation for prolonged periods of watering. This can be accomplished by reducing the amount of sprinkler run time for the area that waters the tree. When planning a landscape project, it is best advised to not plant oak trees in a lawn. Oak trees do not have the same watering requirements as turf so if possible redesign the landscape to incorporate oak trees outside the turf area.