Many Dunwoody homeowners dislike losing their trees, but Georgia Power Company officials say they prioritize safe and reliable electricity. That means removing trees that could grow 15 feet or higher.
The cycle of mowing in Dunwoody is almost complete, said Kym Stephens, the metro north transmission forester for Georgia Power. But trees could still be tagged and removed from yards.
“We’re actively working in Dunwoody,” she said, but added that she can’t say exactly when or if they will cut trees down.
The utility company in 1953 purchased easements in order to have the full legal right to the strip of land under a high-power line. Stephens described at the Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting April 12 that utility-owned easement information is publicly documented and “anyone who closes on a home will have access to the information,” she said.
Matt Chambers, the forestry supervisor for Georgia Power Company, said a new federal standard affects the way the utility does business. The triggering event for a major blackout in 2008 that affected Dunwoody residents was a tree, Chambers said.
So, the federal government got involved to prevent a similar future “cascading event” from happening, he said.
If a utility fails to act or vegetation contacts a power line and causes an outage, the federal government could fine the utility company $1 million per day. “They can even make it retroactive, saying the utility should have known about the risk,” Chambers said.
He said the severity of fines made the utility company less lax about enforcing its policy, which means even 45-year-old dogwood trees that haven’t grown to 15 feet must be clear cut when found in the right of way.
Mowers come through with tractors and they are instructed to mow 250 feet, for example, Stephens said. They mow in unmaintained areas only and mowers don’t remove trees, she added. Workers tag the tree so the owner can contact Georgia Power.
“We’re not required to notify residents,” Stephens said, saying many homeowners choose not to contact the company because they know there isn’t anything they can do to save an incompatible tree.
“If they haven’t heard from homeowner after a week they will try again,” she said. “We try to be consistent with moving crews through the area, but we try a couple times to make contact with the homeowners.”
Though the company website offers valuable information, Stephens said she makes every effort to meet with and help homeowners understand the process and why keeping vegetation under control is crucial to safe and reliable service.
“I try so hard to make an effort to meet with people,” she said. Educating homeowners helps “win the battle,” she said.