6 On Your Side Answers: Why does TVA need to cut down trees on my property?

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – As many people in East Tennessee are aware, power lines and trees don’t exactly make good neighbors.

Ten years ago, close to 50 million people found that out when trees brushed against a transmission line in Ohio creating the largest blackout in American history.

What about those trees you planted under a TVA transmission line?

Lindsay Shope in Oak Ridge asks, “TVA wants to cut down nine trees in my backyard. They had not been a problem before. Why now?”

Shope became emotional when she spoke about childhood pets buried under the shade of a big tree located behind her home in Oak Ridge where she grew up.

“I’d love to see it trimmed. It provides shade for me. It provides a memoir of the past, my childhood memories. I can’t stand here and watch it be taken down,” said Shope.

Red ribbons mark nine trees in the Shopes’ backyard that TVA is scheduled to cut down October 22.

TVA notified the family about its vegetation control policy earlier this month.

“We have been here 20 years. In the past when TVA has come through and trimmed the trees, they would trim them for us. We have even trimmed some of the trees ourselves,” said Shope’s husband Tom.

In areas where trees might fall or come in contract with its power lines, TVA generally does not allow any tree to grow if it exceeds 15 feet in height on its property easements.

“I would like to see our trees topped off,” said Lindsay Shope. “I understand if they are in the way of the power line, but let’s top them off. It is stupid to kill these trees.

Sixty or 70 years ago, when TVA started building these transmission lines and getting easements from property owners, the lines were on rural land, not in subdivisions or apartments.

The tougher vegetation maintenance regulations are the result the Energy Policy Act passed in 2005 following that big black out in 2003. However, not all trees are cut down.

“Our right of way specialist will be more than happy to come out and talk to anybody who has a transmission easement on their property,” said TVA spokesman Travis Brickey. “But if there are trees that can grow over 15 feet under the lines and in our easement, they will eventually be cut down.”

Brickey showed 6 On Your Side the approved species list of more than four dozen compatible smaller trees that can be grown under TVA’s power lines.

The trees on Tom and Lindsay Shope’s property, however, pose a hazard.

“TVA says they’re coming down,” said Tom Shope.

You can see Don Dare’s 6 On Your Side Answers every Tuesday and Thursday on 6 News at 4:00.

If you have a question you can send Don an email at ddare@wate.com or call his 6 On Your Side hotline at (865) 633-5974.

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