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Bruce Elfant

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Constable's Notebook - February 2006

During my 20 years living in the Delwood II neighborhood, my neighbors and I knew to have flashlights and candles ready anytime storms approached Austin. More often than not, ice and windstorms would leave our neighborhood in the dark. According to Austin Energy, storms are the major cause of power outages in Austin. In order to reduce power outages, the City of Austin requires that tree limbs not be within 10 feet of power lines and Austin Energy maintains a 3 – 5 year cycle for trimming trees along power lines.

The first notice some residents in the Hancock and Hyde Park neighborhoods, received of the City’s intent to clear tree limbs was when they discovered that many of their trees were tagged with green (trimming) or pink (removal) ribbons. According to state law, Austin Energy has legal authority to go on private property to trim or remove trees that are within 10 feet of power lines. Residents are entitled to receive prior written notice and request a site visit by an Austin Energy arborist to identify specifically what they intend to cut. Residents who disagree with Austin Energy’s plans are entitled (in writing) to request a professional arborist’s opinion before any cutting occurs. In some cases power lines can be slightly realigned and insulation can be added to lines that are rubbing on major limbs. Trees larger than 19 inches in diameter are protected by the Tree and Natural Area Protection ordinance and may only be removed by obtaining a review and permit issued by the Watershed Protection Department. This provision applies to private residents as well as Austin Energy.

Our trees add value to our community. They can lower energy bills and add value to properties. Be warned that Austin’s Energy’s interest is in clearing limbs around power lines and not so much the ultimate well being of our trees. Residents are advised to work to reach an agreement regarding specific cuts to be made and to be there to make sure trimming or removal is done according to the agreement. Remember that Oak Wilt is often spread by tree trimming equipment. It is important that ALL equipment be disinfected before working on YOUR trees.

The Hyde Park and Hancock Neighborhood associations were able to obtain a temporary moratorium on any cutting to enable their concerns to be laid out and hopefully resolved.

More information regarding Austin Energy’s tree trimming program and homeowners rights and options can be obtained from the entities listed below.

Austin Energy tree trimming services – 494-9400 or 322-6771 Tree and Natural Area Protection Ordinance and tree removal permits 974-1876 Austin Neighborhoods Council - www.ancweb.org.



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