East Highland grandmother sets up hammock in trees to protect them from removal

Leticia Juarez Image
Thursday, September 28, 2023
SoCal woman sets up hammock in trees to protect them from removal
An East Highland woman has tended to two date palms near her home for nearly a decade. Now, they're in danger of being cut down, so she's taking drastic measures to stop it.

EAST HIGHLAND, Calif. (KABC) -- Susie Silveria has spent nine years cultivating her East Highland property into a regenerative farm and wildlife habitat. But last month, the peace and harmony she once had disappeared after she claims she received a letter from the East Valley Water District.

"The morning of the 26th ... [the letter said] that they were going to possibly take out trees," said Silveria.

The trees in question are the two date palms Silveria says help to anchor the roots of a 100-year-old Sequoia tree in front of her home.

She believes removing the trees would destabilize the Sequoia, so she decided to protest the district's attempt to remove the palms by taking refuge in them.

"Right now, I have to be in these two date trees that are very old and pokey. I am bruised, I am bloody ... it's not about me. I'm not trying to be the victim. It's not easy," said Silveria.

The root of the problem is the pipe that runs under the trees. In July, the water district discovered the pipe was completely blocked.

"This is a pipeline that goes from the Seven Oaks Dam all the way to our surface water treatment plant conveying 7 million gallons of water to the treatment plant per day," said East Valley Water District Public Affairs and Conservation Manager William Ringland.

Maintenance crews have been working on a blockage, pulling a tangle of roots and debris from inside the pipe, but that's not the only problem they're dealing with.

"We've also identified that there is a compromise in the pipe structure where we are looking to do a comprehensive fix of the pipeline to ensure that we can maintain safe and reliable water supply for our community," said Ringland.

That means the trees would have to go, but the dispute comes down to the property line with the water district claiming the land belongs to them.

"It's actually on district property. So, this past week we sent out property land surveyors to really survey and identify the property rights and the land for the district," said Ringland.

However, Silveria disputes the district's claims saying the trees and land they are on have always belonged to her.

"They don't have an easement, they don't have any right of ways, there's nothing owned by them on this property as far as we know," said SIlveria. "We went to the city, we went to tax assessors; we went everywhere ... our deeds ... there is nothing on here that they own."

The water district says it wants to work with Silveria on a solution that will work for both parties.

"We recognize that part of our mission is to preserve the quality of life of our community and our goal is to remove as few trees as possible. However we also recognize that we maintain a critical source of water for our community," said Ringland.