Tree cutting explained | AspenTimes.com

Tree cutting explained

Recently there has been much discussion concerning Holy Cross Energy’s plan to remove dangerous trees near its overhead power line in the upper Castle Creek Valley. The Forest Service and Holy Cross Energy have been jointly working on resolving the problems in this area.

The reactions to date have not focused on the primary reasons for this project. This particular aspen grove creates safety issues for the public, our employees and service reliability problems for our consumers served by the power line.

Due to the existing condition of the right-of-way, the consumers in the upper Castle Creek Valley have experienced 30 percent more consumer outage hours this year than the system average.

Most of the trees requiring removal in this area are not healthy. The trees have root problems, disease and clumping that tend to make them dangerous. Tree removal will be made on an individual basis determined by health, location and height.

The clearing will create a more sculptured and natural appearance to the right-of-way than the existing swath. Recently, one of the trees marked for removal fell into the line, creating significant burn marks on the tree and causing a power outage.

When trees fall or grow into power lines, protective devices do not always detect the tree on the line. This causes burning of the tree until the tree is removed or the line is broken. Touching the tree (contacting the line) would risk an electric shock.

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Fire is a likely outcome of trees lying on the line, and with the persistent drought conditions, Holy Cross Energy has been focusing on high-risk areas such as the upper Castle Creek.

Safety of our employees is of high concern. There as been a growing incidence of trees falling during outage repair. We have had to remove the employees from the area until the weather conditions improved.

Because this right-of-way and the adjoining quasi-public lands are also frequented by the general public, falling trees can also be a hazard to the public.

It has been suggested that Holy Cross Energy should underground this 1.5 miles of overhead power lines, thereby saving the trees and eliminating the visual impact of the overhead power line. Unfortunately, the cost of undergrounding is six times more expensive than removing the dangerous trees.

Holy Cross Energy has adopted policies that provide fairness to customers and at the same time establish reasonable rates. Rates are generically based upon power costs, utility plant and operating expenses.

Undergrounding of existing or new facilities is an added service that Holy Cross Energy provides, subject to its policies and payments received as a contribution.

Annually, Holy Cross Energy undergrounds approximately 18 existing overhead power line projects at the expense of the interested party. Recently, the Smuggler Park Homeowners along with the Gibson Street neighborhood were faced with a rebuilt overhead facility or find a way to have the facility placed underground.

They understood this was their issue and they knew what they wanted. They worked diligently with Holy Cross Energy and found the fiscal resources.

Holy Cross Energy is willing to discuss undergrounding this portion of the Castle Creek Valley line should interested parties contribute the additional cost, which is presently estimated to be $250,000.

The importance of the Ryan property to the community is quite clear. However, the property was purchased subject to an existing overhead line along with its past, present and future requirements. This includes conflicts associated with the power line and proper right-of-way maintenance.

Holy Cross Energy’s obligation is to provide safe, reliable and economical service to the public. The removal of dangerous trees meets those three requirements.

However, if undergrounding the power line is considered an additional objective, then finding the additional fiscal resources must be the responsibility of the interested parties.

Richard D. Brinkley

General Manager-Regulated Services

Holy Cross Energy