Keeping Trim: Oncor, city of Tyler help keep trees out of harm’s way

Published on Saturday, 30 August 2014 23:31 - Written by Kelly Gooch, kgooch@tylerpaper.com

When Charles Hill and other Oncor representatives start looking at trees in a neighborhood, they usually attract attention.

Hill, who serves as east region customer operations manager with Oncor, said residents come out of their house, and drivers stop to ask questions.

Questions are: “What are you doing?” “How is it going to look?” “How can we save our trees?” he said.

He said Oncor uses various contractor companies to trim trees near power lines, and it’s all in an effort to try to ensure people’s safety and prevent future power outages.

He said each of Oncor’s power lines has an associated right of way, which is determined by the voltage and configuration of the line, and Oncor is responsible for and has the authority to maintain these rights of way.

“Of course some trees grow faster than others, so we try to watch our system and watch outages and growth on trees and get the best bang for our dollar as far as tree trimming,” Hill said.

He said trees are trimmed using the appropriate method, based on the power line location and configuration.

Sometimes an issue is called to Oncor’s attention because of power outages in a particular neighborhood, he said, but most of the tree trimming is planned.

Hill said Oncor has certified arborists who look at the growth pattern of trees and Oncor’s system, so the company keeps records of trimming. He said it then matches those records with records of power outages to help determine when and where trimming needs to occur.

“We live in an urban forest. The forest surrounds us. So we don’t concentrate on one specific area of town. We just go where (tree) growth is (and) where the outages are occurring,” Hill said.

He said Oncor works all year trimming trees and clearing its rights of way so that when there is an ice storm, spring wind storm or summer hurricane, it lessens the impact of those natural events.

When it comes to tree removal, the city of Tyler handles residents’ requests to remove trees in the city’s right of way.

City of Tyler Senior Public Relations Specialist Serena Butcher said via email when a resident requests that a tree be removed, the Streets Department opens a work order and does a physical inspection to determine two factors: “Is the tree in the city right of way?” and “Is the tree a danger to the public because of its condition?”

If the answer to both questions is “Yes,” then the city schedules the tree to be removed, she said. 

Ms. Butcher said if the tree is not in the city’s right of way, but still poses potential danger to the public if it were to fall, then the issue is turned over to Code Enforcement to pursue with the property owner.

As far as development, all building permits issued by the city must comply with landscaping requirements, which vary by zoning classification, Ms. Butcher said.

Tyler resident Dakota Hadin, 23, lives on Oakdale Drive and recently lost two trees in his front yard.

Hill said in this particular case, there is a natural gas pipeline right of way that goes through that area, and trees in that right of way were removed.

Hadin said he wasn’t aware of the right of way situation, and the whole thing was a learning experience for him.

For more information on trees, visitwww.texastree smart.org.

Ms. Butcher said residents who have questions about a tree in the city’s right of way that they believe may be dead may call Tim Norris at 903-531-1371.