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Tree Trimming and Power Outages

I'm experiencing a bit of schadenfreude as the folks pushing hardest for restrictions on Austin Energy (AE)'s trimming plans in the neighborhoods with the most power outages due to tree limbs (and entire trees) falling down are forced to defend themselves against the quite accurate charges that a more vigorous pruning regime would have resulted in less problems overall. One example:

Last week's storms and some gratuitous vilification of those of us trying to preserve as much of our shade canopy as possible present something of a difficult environment for saving the trees in our alleys and especially along our numbered strees where lines cross, so if you want to support our work, I hope you wll attend.

It doesn't help that these same people form much of the nucleus of the abominable "let's further restrict residential development in the Center City while claiming to be against suburban sprawl" contingent.

However, I also don't want to see beautiful trees hacked to pieces, and, frankly, AE will do it if they're not reined in.

So, here's my proposal:

Each AE customer gets to choose between the following:

1. AE gets to do whatever they want.

2. AE can't trim anything, but residents at this address will be assessed a (fairly large) monthly charge designed to build up funds for putting electric lines underground (where, in more civilized parts of the country, they generally would be). This doesn't include wires from the street to your house; just the wires along the street. AE pays 50% of the cost of any such projects; the remaining 50% comes from the local residents' contributions and must be spent within the local neighborhood planning district (i.e. maybe not on your individual street but not too far from it).

Problem solved. Those who want to preserve their trees at the possible risk of cutting off their neighbors' electricity must pay for the privilege, and the money must go into a much better long-term solution than trimming.

(I'd choose #2 myself, by the way, depending on the charge. I don't want my trees hacked up either; but I don't assert the right to cut off power to my entire neighborhood).

Next up: M1EK solves the "Drainage Emergency".

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Economics , Republicans Hate The Environment , Urban Design , Walking in Austin (Pedestrian Issues) , When Neighborhoods Go Bad


Since you linked my trees, M1EK, I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I went back and forth with Austin Energy over tree trimming at my place three or four years ago. They initially wanted to remove three or four of the trees in my yard. The two damaged trees in my photos were not included in the set to be removed and they didn't hit any lines. The sparking that I mentioned was from another tree and honestly, in the dark, I couldn't tell if it was one of mine or another neighbor's. We only lost power for a couple of minutes Thursday night. The rest of our neighborhood had a similar experience as far as I could tell. There were a lot of downed limbs around the neighborhood Friday morning.

AE did end up trimming several of my trees. I just thought removal of several of the trees that made me buy the house in the first place was a bit drastic. I'd go with your #2 option. It's all about compromise.


I was referring mainly to the effort in the neighborhoods abuting mine (Hyde Park, Eastwoods, Hancock), not to past successes or failures at preventing excessive trimming. I'm getting the sense that the procedures being pushed by this particular task force will hamstring AE pretty severely - far beyond what you or I might deem acceptable; and the city council is going to roll over for them.

Thanks for the comment!

A plan like number two might not be a great idea because it could introduce the home-owner to some liability, couldn't it? We're a litigous society.

For example, Jim (who runs a business) might have his power go out and find out that it was Bob down the street who refused to trim his trees. While Bob paid an extra $20 a month for the honor, Jim's business had the power go out for 4 hours which costs him several thousands of dollars in sales.

In our screwed up legal system, couldn't Jim sue Bob for damage to his business?

There is a precident of home-owners not cutting down dead trees and it falling on neighbors roofs. If the home-owner suddenly has the option of *choosing* to trim the trees around electric lines, it could make things a bit interesting legal-wise.

That's an interesting angle - but you could make the same liability argument over those who are currently pushing the city council to further restrict the ability of Austin Energy to prune.