Against a background of planes taking off outside of his office, Dave Daly spoke about Solano County’s Obstruction Removal Program at the Nut Tree Airport. Two large groves of eucalyptus trees had become a safety hazard, obstructing the airspace of the airport. Pilots had been flying around the trees. It was time for them to go.
There was much more to this project then simply removing trees. The groves were on lands owned by Solano County, City of Vacaville, Solano Community College, and the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum. The environmental aspect of the project also brought California Department of Fish and Wildlife into the process. There were many players involved.
“It was a collaborative effort,” Daly said. All the entities involved were willing to work together and recognized the safety issue.
Removing the Obstruction
The group, led by Daly, wanted to be cooperative, and worked together to come up with a solution. “We wanted to help the state,” he said. A five year effort was undertaken to safely remove the two groves, starting in 2011, and it was completed in two phases—one for each grove of trees to be removed.
The biggest challenge, Daly said, was the environmental impact. Suggesting the removal of 1,700 trees was not an easy sell to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The solution was simple: plant other trees.
More than 3,000 native trees were planted in Winters, CA, establishing a native migratory habitat in an area known as Lower Putah Creek.
Multiple agencies including the Nut Tree Airport and the Solano County Water Agency contributed, both with costs and with planning the replanting. Planting 3,000 trees when removing 1,700 made sure that a healthy habitat would be established, because the typical survival rate of new plantings is about 50%.
Removing the groves ensured compliance with safety regulations and created a safe public facility, reducing risk exposures for all the entities involved. The safety of planes and passengers was improved, and the offset of native plantings ensured environmental preservation.
“It was a win all the way across the board,” Daly said. Open communication between the different agencies, including the state, lead to a win-win solution. Daly pointed out that planning ahead and doing due diligence helped the project move smoothly, as well as timing, having the right people on board, and “a little bit of luck.”
Solano County’s Obstruction Removal Program at the Nut Tree Airport received the 2017 EAGLE Award for Excellence in Implementation of New Risk Management Program.