TVA informs Hermitage neighbors of cutting trees near lines - WSMV News 4

TVA informs Hermitage neighbors of cutting trees near lines

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Tall trees are a point of pride for a lot of property owners, but when that property is crossed by power lines, the Tennessee Valley Authority will likely come knocking with chainsaws in hand.

That includes Sharon and Richard Shoemake's backyard in Hermitage.

"These trees were here before the lines - before these lines came through here. They are over 100 years old," Sharon Shoemake said.

But they may not be there for long.

"It's their discretion. They can come in and cut down anything they want to," Sharon Shoemake said.

The TVA has informed some residents in the Lake Park subdivision it will soon be clear-cutting dozens of trees around the transmission lines.

Only one of four will remain in the Shoemake's backyard.

"We're not getting clear answers about what we're dealing with," Sharon Shoemake said. "I'm concerned about clear-cutting in general and having everything cut down."

The Shoemakes are also worried about their electric bill.

"With no shade on the house, and that hot sun beaming down on it, it's going to up that electric bill in the summer time," Richard Shoemake said.

Neighbors gathered Monday to voice their concerns.

It's not just the trees that have been around for years that will have to go. Neighbors say the TVA has informed them that any trees or shrubs that could grow over 15 feet will be cut down as well.

"If Congress can look at the IRS, if they can look at the VA and the others they are investigating, they need to investigate the TVA also," said former Tennessee state Rep. Ben West.

TVA has a right-of-way of 75 feet in both directions from the center of transmission lines. Officials said any vegetation that might cause a safety issue or power outage could be on the chopping block.

"This will decrease our property values and the enjoyment of our property," Sharon Shoemake said.

In a statement to Channel 4 News, TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said:

"TVA has an ongoing vegetation maintenance program designed to keep our power lines and right-of-ways clear of trees and vegetation that might cause a safety issue or power outage should they come in close contact with our lines. Our program is uniform and fair in that we remove from our right-of-way any trees that could grow, or have grown, larger than 15 feet in height, regardless of the neighborhood within our seven-state service area. We appreciate the concerns of property owners who may have trees within our right-of-way. But those written agreements do give TVA the right to take action necessary to protect the power grid and our customers."

Fifteen years ago, the TVA cut two trees down in Bobby Jones' backyard.

"I hated to see them go," Jones said. "They were so pretty."

He now keeps two other trees trimmed, hoping they will be spared.

Residents in Hermitage said they are also concerned the wildlife in the neighborhood will lose their homes once the trees and shrubs are gone.

"The Federal Electric Regulatory Commission has given the industry a standard of zero vegetation-related outages, and fines can be up to a million dollars a day per violation," Brooks said. "TVA sets its own standard on how to meet that."

TVA officials added the vegetation doesn't even have to come in direct contact with lines to cause an outage. On a hot, muggy day, electricity can travel through the air, so if vegetation is even within 10 feet or so of a line, it could cause an outage.

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