Archive for Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Westar aims to prevent outages with tree-trimming program

December 20, 2011


Crews of Westar-hired tree-trimmers are back in force in Lawrence, and they’re growing in number faster than a well-watered willow.

Workers with Wright Tree Service deal with rain and traffic as they trim trees near the intersection of 23rd Street and Massachusetts St. Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. Westar has contracted with Wright to trim back trees near power lines in the city.

Workers with Wright Tree Service deal with rain and traffic as they trim trees near the intersection of 23rd Street and Massachusetts St. Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. Westar has contracted with Wright to trim back trees near power lines in the city.

Westar Energy officials have more than doubled the number of tree-trimming crews in the city as part of a new four-year program to trim trees along 870 miles of electrical lines in the city, the company said Tuesday. Property owners who live near power lines should expect a Westar-hired crew to be along every four years, rather than the more standard time interval of every 8 to 10 years.

“This program will take a more proactive approach,” said Jeff Martin, director of reliability for Westar Energy. “Lawrence does have a lot of tree-related issues.”

Westar will divide the city into four areas, with dividing lines along Iowa Street and 15th Street. Crews currently are in the southeast area of the city, including along 23rd Street and soon will be moving into areas along 19th Street.

Westar estimates that it will take the approximately 10 crews assigned to the program a year to go through each quadrant. Next year, Westar expects crews to be in the southwest area of the city, then the northwest area, and the four-year cycle will end in the northeast section of Lawrence. The program then will start all over again.

Westar estimates that 16 percent of all power outages in Lawrence are directly related to issues with trees near power lines. After the program is fully implemented, Westar expects the number of power outages will decline by 30 percent, in part because crews will be able to better visually inspect all power lines.

“This is really about trying to stop outages before they happen,” said Chad Luce, manager of customer and community relations for Westar.

But the tree-trimming in past years has created concern from property owners who differ with Westar’s assessment of how much a tree needs to be trimmed or whether it must be taken down entirely. Westar has broad powers to remove trees — even trees in city parks and others owned by the city — if the trees are in a utility easement.

Luce said Westar subscribes to best practices for tree-trimming and has won recognition within the utility industry for its tree management program. Westar officials are hoping that the more frequent pruning will mean less severe trimming in the future.

Westar also plans to notify property owners along power lines at least two weeks in advance of tree-trimming crews entering their neighborhoods. Westar plans to hang informational packets on the doors of properties that will be affected, and they also will contact neighborhood associations and offer to host informational meetings before cutting begins.

Lawrence is the second city in the state where Westar has implemented the more frequent tree-trimming program. The company started the program in Wichita last year.

The program aims to trim trees along every power line in the city, except for service lines that run directly from a pole to an individual’s home. Keeping trees clear from those lines continues to be the responsibility of property owners.


Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

I have noticed that since Wright's butchered our trees on our street that the power has gone out a lot less.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Why not spend money to move the lines perhaps underground?

Wright Tree Service is in fact Wrong Tree Service!

Westar is asking for a rate increase to cover the cost of massive tree damage in communities. Why not spend the money to move the lines perhaps underground?

The tree butchers have zero respect for ratepayers property.

The tree damage they inflict on all trees could impact property values.

This organization does not prune trees they frankly are creating a hazard.

Why not spend money to move the lines perhaps underground?

The reckless removal of branches can most likely make tress weaker thus more likely to blow over. When and if this happens residents should haul Westar and Wright Tree Service into civil court and sue them till the cows come home.

Who in the world granted Westar the authority to basically damage trees at will? Lawrence,Kansas planted many trees along the right of way then comes WRONG Tree Service to destroy them.

Why not spend money to move the lines perhaps underground?

Wright Tree Service is in fact Wrong Tree Service!

headdoctor 6 years, 2 months ago

The easement of record when the property was platted gave them the authority to butcher trees and if the property owners payed attention to what they purchased they would know where not to put trees or that there were some that would need to be cut back or cut down if they already existed when they purchased the property.

Underground lines would be best but that doesn't save the trees nor give the property owners the right to plant in the easement on top of buried lines.

gphawk89 6 years, 2 months ago

It's true that improper pruning can weaken a tree - and even eventually kill it if the pruning is severe enough. BUT, digging a long, deep ditch right next to the tree will remove close to half of it's root system (almost certain doom). Most tree roots are within 24 inches of the surface, and primary lines need to be buried at least that deep. Burial is great in a new subdivision, but you're SOL in an established neighborhood. About the best you can do in that situation is to hire a certified arborist to properly prune your property before the utility-sponsored hackers come through.

honestone 6 years, 2 months ago

Several years ago the city planted some trees on the parkway directly under the power lines. When I pointed this out to the crew I was told it was to beautify the neighborhood. This year Wright hacked all of the trees into half trees so I called city hall and asked about removing the tree since it looked horrible. The city told me it will grow back in a year or two and will look fine.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

IMPROPER PRUNING. Improper pruning does not kill a tree outright, but it does weaken a tree to the point where other agents finish the job.

Examples of improper pruning are topping, leaving stubs, and the removal of all branches on a limb except for a few at the end.

Another big mistake people make is to top a tree in hopes of controlling the growth, Leuallen said.

"It's not always fatal, but it certainly causes a tree that could have been pruned and made nice to become a total aberration, with the potential to be unsafe," he said.

The Eugene Water & Electric Board used to top trees under power lines but stopped the practice around 1990, spokesman Marty Douglass said.

"Now we do directional pruning, and we try to be as least invasive on the tree as possible," Douglass said.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Practice proper pruning techniques by cutting branches before they become larger than one inch in diameter. The branch collar should not be damaged . The branch collar is part of the stem and, if damaged by poor pruning, provides an avenue of attack into the main stem for pests.

Proper pruning minimizes a number of structural problems that occur in association with new wood growth around a pruned branch.

Prune branches to produce a reasonably symmetrical crown. If more than 70 percent of the crown is on one side of a mature tree, consider tree removal and replacement. ( I'd say Westar might be liable and be subjected to a tree replacement order)

Do not leave branch stubs. Stubs encourage rot and decay.

Avoid topping the tree to allow small side branches to grow out and continue the tree's height growth. These branches will be weak and prone to breakage.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 2 months ago

My father trimmed trees on the side as a second part time job for many years. He would be horrified at the butcher job done on the trees of this city. One of the things that he did that I haven't seen these trimmers doing; when he trimmed a limb he would paint the cut end to seal it. (I'm sure there are better sealers on the market now.) This prevents sap loss and allows the tree to heal. I do believe in the coming year we will see a lot of outright tree loss. :(

Phog67 6 years, 2 months ago

A couple years ago, the city decided my trees needed to be, ummm, trimmed? They gave me no notice, they did this while I was at work, and I was called by friends that drove by my backyard (I back up to Wakarusa) and they couldn't believe the destruction that was done to the trees.

I got home and not only had they destroyed all the trees near the power lines, they destroyed all the hosta beds that were under the trees, kicked rocks out of the same beds and the grass was ruined by all the branches that fell.

I live on the mostly residential side of Wakarusa and the power lines are on our side. The other side is mostly business. You would assume they would have fewer trees. Why not move power lines instead of constantly butchering? Cost? I really don't care. My taxes are higher and higher and my home is worth less and less.

There is a right way and a wrong way to handle this.

headdoctor 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes there is a better way to handle this. It is called don't put trees, flowerbeds, bushes or other plant beds and fancy landscaping in the utility easements then you wont have to be worried that it is destroyed when the companies come through for improvements or maintenance.

mom_of_three 6 years, 2 months ago

at least Wright trimmed our tree when we were at home. While we asked them to make it look nice, that wasn't their priority. Our poor tree was literally cut in half and I worried it would blow over in a storm. It has grown back a little, but still looks a little sad. Not good for a front yard tree.

headdoctor 6 years, 2 months ago

Many times Wright will take the tree down if you ask them to and you sign a release. They are also pretty good about knowing what trees will become unstable by the trimming. In a lot of situations they would rather take it down than come back every 4 to 8 years to trim 10 to 15 feet off of it for line clearance.

The biggest issue is people that purposely plant trees or allow scrub trees to grow up in right of way easements. Then whine and complain their trees were butchered by the utility companies clearing the way. This issue comes up over and over again. What part of the trees shouldn't have been there in the first place don't you people get.

gccs14r 6 years, 2 months ago

What part of "underground" don't you get? Bury the lines and most of the maintenance and safety problems go away.

They topped one of my trees and limbed another last year. The one they limbed was 30' back from the lines and I'd been paying a professional trimmer to take care of it. Wright didn't care.

headdoctor 6 years, 2 months ago

I get underground. Underground is best. See my above post. Underground is not always possible nor are they going to bury the lines around the trees to save them. An easement is an easement buried lines or not. I can assure you that if a tree is causing problems to a buried line you can kiss the tree good by as well.

Jayson Hawk 6 years, 2 months ago

Butcher is a good description of what Wright does to the trees. The flyer Westar gave us states they will remove tree cuttings, but Wright left large limbs in yards throughout our neighborhood. The neighbors did not ask Wright to leave these limbs, but that was Wright's excuse for leaving the limbs.

gphawk89 6 years, 2 months ago

The hackers came through my neighborhood two months ago. I took a day off work and stood in my back yard watching the crew the entire day, questioning every move they were making. They probably hated me by the end of the day but I managed to talk them out of a number of cuts that weren't absolutely necessary. As a result, my backyard view will be significantly nicer for the next four years. It was definitely worth losing one vacation day. It helps a lot if you know the name and cellphone number for the arborist for the trimming company (if they even have one) and the vegetation supervisor for the utility.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.