Letters to the Editor

Tree tragedy

December 28, 2011


To the editor:

It was a beautiful Christmas present to open the Dec. 24 issue of the Journal-World and see Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” next to Mike Yoder’s photograph of the devastation caused by Westar’s new “proactive” tree policy (see Journal-World, Dec. 21). We thought we were the only ones who were feeling like Lawrence has lost (and will continue to lose) a piece of itself as Westar’s new policy removes hundreds of trees and halves hundreds more.

We are becoming acquainted with vistas of backyards and the glow of streetlights and piercing, outdoor spotlights that the now-gone-forever trees in our yard and in the yards of our neighbors used to conceal. Come summer, we will miss the cool shade, the sound of the leaves in the wind and the songs of the orioles and wrens that used to nest in those trees. We already miss the winter birds that no longer come to our feeders because our backyard has more in common with a Los Angeles parking lot than the nature habitat it used to be. 

Thank you, Mike, for your picture and thank you for the poem. Maybe other people in Lawrence will feel the same way.


thirdplanet 3 years, 11 months ago

Jesus Christ, only in Lawrence would you find people making a fuss about routine tree trimming.

jesse499 3 years, 11 months ago

If you call Wright Butcher service routine tree trimming your blind!

jesse499 3 years, 11 months ago

Maybe you should go out in the day time.

budman 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm thankful Westar is clearing the trees, I'd rather see some branches trimmed than have the power go out. Back in New Hampshire the power company would be criticized for not doing enough tree trimming, and thirdplanets got it right that you'd only find the opposite in Lawrence.

Think how old the power lines are around this city, I'm sure any damage done by a fallen limb would do more than usual damage to the grid because how old the lines are.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

Damned if you trim the trees, damned if you don't! A friend of mine lives in Highland, Kansas. In 2007 the whole town lost electricity for about ten days in the freezing cold in the middle of winter.

And guess what? With no electricity, nobody's furnace worked, unless they had a backup generator all ready to go!

So, water pipes were bursting in everyone's house. The Red Cross and FEMA showed up, and the cleanup went on well into the summer.

Clipped from: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/storms/winter/2007-12-10-ice-storm_N.htm

Midwest storm leaves 24 dead, nearly 1M powerless

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A thick glaze of ice brought down power lines and cut electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes and business, closed schools and canceled flights Tuesday as a major storm blasted the nation's midsection.

At least 24 deaths had been blamed on the storm system since the waves of sleet and freezing rain started during the weekend.

Glistening, ice-covered roads contributed to many of the deaths. Downed power lines caused dozens of fires in Oklahoma. And then there was the problem of staying warm because officials cautioned that electricity may not be restored for days, if not weeks.

The power outage was the worst ever in Oklahoma, with nearly 600,000 homes and businesses without electricity Tuesday. Nearly 350,000 other customers were affected by outages in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.

ect, etc,

Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency. President Bush declared a federal emergency in Oklahoma on Tuesday, ordering government aid to supplement state and local efforts.

The 24 deaths in the Midwest and 15 in Oklahoma, have been blamed on frozen conditions that sent cars skidding off highways and caused trees and power lines to snap under the weight of ice.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City each had more than 100 reports of fires since the storm began, mostly from tree limbs crashing into live power lines, authorities said.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

The ideal solution would be to place all of the power lines underground. But that would cost a fortune, and there was a whole of of opposition to Westar's recent request for a rate increase that was VERY small compared to the cost of doing that.

So it's a certainty that's something that everyone wants, but no one is willing to pay for.

woodscolt 3 years, 11 months ago

Typical republican response. Its either cut all the trees down or the electricity will be out for 10 days, or your house will be destroyed when a branch falls on it. You see no middle ground or room for good judgement. Its way easier for westar to put their blinders on and slash and burn rather than to be selective about trimming trees. Trimming trees to westar begins at the ground. You completely rule out "good judgement" on what is necessary and what is easier. Oh, that ugly word "compromise".

bearded_gnome 3 years, 11 months ago

once again, time after time, Woodscult = zzz2ZZZ!

Don Whiteley 3 years, 11 months ago

And the liberal side says, "Let the trees fall as they might". If they fall, it's the government's issue to clean up and fix our problems...and someone else's tax money to pay for it.

pace 3 years, 11 months ago

Where did your quote come from? I don't see it.

pace 3 years, 11 months ago

Where did your quote come from? I don't see it.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

You certainly did read a whole lot into my very brief comments. I only mentioned a very few facts about what happened in Highland, Kansas in 2007. After that, the rest was all clipped from 'USA Today'.

budman 3 years, 11 months ago

Republican response? i don't think politics played a piece in the decision to trim the trees.

Xwards 3 years, 11 months ago

Mr. & Mrs. Brichoux, thank you for your letter. I too, wish the tree company would have been more judicious in trimming back trees. Even though Westar uglified the trees in question, they've never done anything to make their power lines look better. What's missing here is the actual cost of burying powerlines.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm quite sure that the long term costs of burying all of the power lines is actually lower, due to the decreased costs associated with inclement weather. But, I think that in order for it to be cost effective, "long term" would have to be measured in decades.

So, if everyone's electric bill were to be doubled or tripled for only a few years, it could be done. Are you good to go for that?

Of course, the exception is the high tension long distance transmission lines. Burying them is certainly not impossible, but I think that in order to pay for that, everyone's electric bill would have to be at least quadrupled for at least a decade. But, they are mostly out in the country, out of view anyway.

salad 3 years, 11 months ago

Can't bury the lines....period. Cost is a minor issue compared to the physics/engineering issues. Did you even realize that Westar, KCP&L, PPG&L, etc.... employ hundreds of licensed electrical engineers who actually know what they're doing! Hard to find a better insulator than air (besides a complete vacuum), so there's that. If you burried the lines, you'd have to bury them ALOT further apart to avoid arcing and capacitance between the phases (there are three phases). If there's a problem, you'd have a really really hard time finding the location because....it would be underground! Vastly superior and cheaper to hang the lines off poles and towers.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

I think it's technically possible, but VERY expensive. That's why I said "everyone's electric bill would have to be at least quadrupled for at least a decade".

You are right, it's vastly cheaper to hang the poles in the air! And that's not going to change anytime in the foreseeable future, for that very good reason.

There are other insulators that could be used besides air, the resistivity of which varies a great deal with humidity.

The others that could be used are polyethylene, crosslinked polyethylene, PVC, Kapton, rubber-like polymers, Teflon, silicone, modified ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), or compressed inorganic powder.

They all have one thing in common - very, very high cost when used for long distance use.

salad 3 years, 11 months ago

It is NOT technically possible. With 300KV lines, you'd have to space each phase hundreds of feet from the other phases, and very very deep....like 50+ feet deep. What happens when you come across a surface bedrock? Even the 13.5 KV feeder lines in neighborhoods would have to be burried deep and FAR apart. Air is a VASTLY superior insulator than any plastic, yet only 20,000-30,000 volts easily rips it apart with NO current. We see this all the time at home: static electricity. The physics of electricity and the engineering of power delivery mean that buried lines are not techinically possible. PERIOD. The line that goes to your house is single phase and 110 V, that you can bury.

Stu Clark 3 years, 11 months ago

Actually, most houses get two phases which is 120V between neutral and each of the high sides and 240V between the two highs.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

I said "Technically possible".

"Technically possible" means maybe not using 300KV lines to transmit power.

Of course, transmitting lower voltages is very lossy, but that does not preclude the possibility of using them, and thereby accepting the very high cost of doing it that way as only one part of the extremely high cost of burying ALL the lines.

I did emphatically emphasize that it would be much, much more expensive to do it any other way than the way it is presently done.

(It's tough to convince someone that majored in Analog Electrical Engineering that something he was well instructed in is not true.)

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

I could tell a long story about that! But I'll shorten it by leaving out the exact details of what all was torn up in everybody's yard in Highland, Kansas by just saying: Everything!

I saw the crew in action, and I think it's amazing they didn't damage any cars or houses that I know of. The heavy equipment was even colliding with trees!

I was told there is a new legal requirement in Kansas that all the natural gas meters be located close to the house. And, because of that, the gas company sent out a crew to change the location of all the gas meters in Highland, Kansas.

And now there's a class action lawsuit going to court because of the damages to everyone's yard. A community of only about 1,500 is trying to collect tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

And - they did not even dig up the lines, only the old meters and their new locations right beside the houses!

Since they claim the damages to the yards in a town of 1,500 is in the tens of thousands of dollars without digging up any lines at all, only the locations of the old meters and their new locations, what would the damages be to a city of 100,000 if all new trenches were to be dug all over the place to bury all the lines?

Considering that all new trenches would have to be dug all over the place, a quick bit of math seems to indicate that the amount of damages would be many tens of millions of dollars.

bearded_gnome 3 years, 11 months ago

they've never done anything to make their power lines look better.


bearded_gnome 3 years, 11 months ago

Christmas, er, holiday lights.

---Fossick, you need immediate punishment: how ungreen, and how racist to even hint that it'd be christmas lights!"
now, bro, you're off to the liberal reeducation camp!

cowboy 3 years, 11 months ago

these whines brought to you by " The people who don't ever have their trees trimmed".

If you don't like it you are more than welcome to spend the thousands to trim your own property.

gccs14r 3 years, 11 months ago

I've had a certified arborist come out to trim twice since 2007. Fat lot of good that did after Wright got done with my trees. At least I don't live on E 19th. What Wright did there is criminal.

John Hamm 3 years, 11 months ago

And you and your neighbors will appreciate the fact your now trimmed trees won't be shorting out power lines causing power outages during ice storms.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Nice pre-emptive strike there :-)

You might want to talk to a lawyer - my understanding is that it's the owner's responsibility, but I'm not sure what recourse you have other than to sue them. A lawyer might know of other things you could do.

Does the owner simply not respond at all?

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

I understand completely.

It's frustrating when neighbors don't act considerately and/or responsibly.

These sorts of situations are always difficult.

gccs14r 3 years, 11 months ago

Anything on your side of the property line is your responsibility. If you want the limbs gone, it's on you to have them removed.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm not at all sure that's true.

Before doing that, I'd certainly check with a lawyer - I'd be very unhappy to get sued by a neighbor for cutting their tree limbs!

gccs14r 3 years, 11 months ago

I had a limb come down last summer. It crushed my wife's car and damaged the roof of both my house and the neighbor's. I called my insurance company and was told that any part of the limb on the other side of the property line was the neighbor's responsibility. (I did go over with a chainsaw and clear their roof/fence/yard of debris.) My arborist also told me that I'm not responsible for trimming anything of mine that hangs over the line. I had him remove an offending limb over the other neighbor, anyway, just 'cause it seemed like the right thing to do.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

I'd still check with a lawyer, or somebody else trained in the law, rather than an insurance agent or arborist.

What did your neighbor do?

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Well, I did a quick internet search.

Apparently, generally, you are right that trimming is the responsibility of the person whose property the limbs are on.

However, if the trunk of the tree is on your property, then it's "your" tree - a nice illustration of the oddness of property rights and nature - why should I be responsible for maintaining your property?

If your tree causes damage to your neighbor's property, they may have a case (according to some sites) against you, if your failure to maintain the tree caused the damage.

So, your neighbor may have had a case against you for the damage to their roof.

This all may differ from state to state, of course.

Loretta Ybarra 3 years, 11 months ago

They placed their bucket over my neighbor's fence and chopped off at least 1/2 tree. She was furious when she got home. Don't be fooled into thinking your property is protected.

Peter Macfarlane 3 years, 11 months ago

I must admit, it would help if we used a little judgment in where we plant trees. All too frequently we plant trees along or close to property lines and guess what, that's usually where the utilities run their lines.

beaujackson 3 years, 11 months ago

An ugly tree is probably better than no power.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Wright Tree Service is the Wrong Tree Service....

If Westar feels a need to butcher trees on behalf of Westar those trees need to replaced not by the owners.

Let's get real. Trees have been growing in these locations for decades now suddenly they must be topped out and halved to prevent a situation that may never happen. The trees have been left out of balance which in fact may result in the trees falling on homes or blowing over because the trees have been weakened? The stubs may well begin rotting.

Also the impact on property values should be on the table. This pre-emptive strike is absurd!!!

No one goes without power for very long. We were without power for 3 days once yet life went on and we lost no food in the fridge or freezer. Candle light became the order of the day and we found different things to do. Life can and does go on.

ResQd 3 years, 11 months ago

I totally agree. I'm all for trimming the trees, but the people they are hired are absolutely terrible. You can always tell in Lawrence when THEY have trimmed them, versus a professional.

parrothead8 3 years, 11 months ago

Ummm...humans? I mean, trees only help create air and rain. No big deal.

bearded_gnome 3 years, 11 months ago

why that's aweful generous of you Merrilly to so happily wave away reliable power. and we remember you're the guy who favors rolling blackouts as a means to force energy conservation.

some of us want to live in the 21st century, and not in a 3rd world environment.

also, you so blithely forget about people with hospital beds and other medical devices who rely on dependable power.

your occu-greenie values are not american values.

shadowlady 3 years, 11 months ago

A good tree trimmer can trim a tree without butchering it, instead of having the tree look so lopsided or bare. BUT it could be Westar's policy to trim the trees way back, so they don't have to come back out so soon.

gccs14r 3 years, 11 months ago

That would be the real reason. Cut the tree so far back that it dies or falls over and Westar never has to pay for trimming again.

jesse499 3 years, 11 months ago

You hit the nail on the head a good tree trimmer they don't use one. What they do is butcher the tree so that they hope the home owner will take it the rest of the way out.But I also am betting that if it's on some of there own lawns Wright does'nt get on the same street.

hujiko 3 years, 11 months ago

Nothing was more tragic than the clear cutting of the Bauer Farms development across from FSHS. All that old growth wiped out/incinerated, and replaced with saplings more apt to die than grow.

Sylvie Rueff 3 years, 11 months ago

I would really like to see more lines go underground. Couldn't some lines find places in the tubes we already have? It would improve on both the vulnerability of the power lines, and the overall appearance of the town. Burying lines is happening in other locales. Why not here? It seems like an idea with a long range payoff - less maintenance, fewer outages, and less destructive to otherwise healthy vegetation.

imastinker 3 years, 11 months ago

It could be just me, but the same people that are complaining about rate increases are the ones complaining about trees. You can't have it both ways - line maintenance is the majority of what you pay in your power bill. Trees are agood portion of that expense.

Yet more people that think companies exist for some reason other than to make shareholders money.

Loretta Ybarra 3 years, 11 months ago

Thank goodness I was home when they came by marking trees. Apparently the old wooden posts holding up my fence and honeysuckle were determined to be "Threats" and now have lovely orange spray paint marking them from the inside of my yard. They also tried to remove metal posts we installed to keep students from bending down our fence as a shortcut. Bright bunch you hired there Westar.

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