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Tree plan stumps residents: Fire safety at issue in cut

Sierra Countis
Court Leve / Sierra Sun / Erin Case points out yellow Xs that have been marked on trees around her Prosser Dam Road property that are to be cut by Sierra Pacific Power. Case and other area residents are upset about the utility's power line clearance plan that will entail hundreds of trees to be cut down.
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TRUCKEE – It wasn’t until Erin and Jason Case saw the yellow spray-painted “X’s” on 41 pine trees on their Prosser Dam Road lot did they realized the magnitude of the tree removal plan proposed by Sierra Pacific Power.

The Cases have been homeowners off Prosser Dam Road since September. As recent newlyweds, the Cases bought their first home together in the wooded neighborhood and have both been busy maintaining their property. Erin Case said her husband has spent more than 25 hours limbing up trees and clearing brush from their 1.5-acre lot.

The Cases first received a letter from Sierra Pacific in February 2006 with a brief description of the utility’s proposed power-line work.

“I kinda blew it off,” Jason Case said.

Weeks later Erin Case returned home to find a message on her door from Sierra Pacific roughly pointing out what kind of maintenance work the utility would be doing and the removal marks on dozens and dozens of their pine trees. That’s when the scale of Sierra Pacific’s 90-foot powerline easement clearance became clear.

“We were just devastated at that point,” Erin Case said.

The same confusion and questions were the consensus for other Prosser Dam Road area homeowners at Truckee High School Wednesday night. Eighteen property owners in the area would be affected by the plans to cut down hundreds of trees in the neighborhood. They expressed their concerns to Sierra Pacific Power representatives over the proposed tree-trimming project that would eliminate any obstructing trees within 90 feet of the power lines.

The company owns two power lines along Prosser Dam Road – a 60 kV line and a 120 kV transmission line with poles that have been in place since 1949.

Up until recently, there has been a 50-foot easement in place that required property owners to keep trees limbed and clear of the power lines for safety purposes.

Sierra Pacific is also planning for a 40-foot easement to be implemented with the 60 kV line. The 90-foot proposed easement, however, has residents upset because of the number of trees that would have to be cut down in order to comply with Sierra Pacific standards of safety.

Bill Bennett, Sierra Pacific supervisor of land operations, said that the proposed easement complies with the National Electric Reliability Council’s safety code. He said that somehow the Prosser Dam Road easement managed to slip through code requirements for more than 20 years. The proposed easement, he said, is necessary to maintain adequate safety and clearance from the power lines.

Bennett said that cutting the trees down would be the most cost-efficient way to deal with compliance to the easement. Although many residents said they would be glad to see the two power lines combined into one like in the nearby Gray’s Crossing subdivision, cost seemed to be the biggest deterrent as far as alternative options were concerned.

At least one homeowner, who stands to lose more than 60 trees on her lot, voiced her concerns about stump removal on her property, as Sierra Pacific is not responsible for stump clean-up.

Resident Donna Jones refused to let Sierra Pacific mark any of the trees in her yard. At the meeting she said she has gone to great lengths to landscape her entire property.

The perfectly manicured lawns, lush plants, sand volleyball court and wooden treehouse she and her husband have spent hours creating would most likely be damaged or destroyed if a tree removal company came in to remove the marked trees. Jones said that Sierra Pacific calculated every single tree on her property would need to be removed.

Erin Case said the homeowners plan on having a meeting to discuss what other options they may have to ensure that their properties don’t get clear cut by Sierra Pacific.


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