03 September 2013

OPPD Response to Tree Clearing Concerns

This email was the response received to multiple concerns regarding the tree clearing at the Northwest Pond Natural Wildlife Area at Levi Carter Park, and as conveyed to a representative of Omaha Public Power District at their downtown Omaha office. Among the questions asked were: 1) Who did OPPD contact at Omaha Parks and Recreation Department prior to the tree clearing?; 2) What is the specific legal mandate that allows OPPD to remove park trees?; 3) Why didn't the tree contractor remove all of the tree debris from the natural wildlife area work site?; 4) Why did the contractors take several limbs and shove them into two animal burrows; 5) Why was tree debris thrown into the pond?; 6) How come Omaha Forestry staff had to remove the debris left at the site?; 7) How does OPPD tree removal consider the potential presence of bird nests and/or young; and 8) How will OPPD mitigate for the trees cleared at the natural wildlife area. The response is presented in its entirety, and verbatim as received August 22, 2013.

"We appreciate your concern regarding tree trimming work done at Levi Carter Park. OPPD management and Forestry personnel also value the many benefits trees bring to our communities and the wildlife that benefits from trees. Since 1989, OPPD has provided approximately $1.08 million to fund OPPD’s Tree Promotion Program in our 13-county area, resulting in the planting of rightly 115,600 trees and shrubs. That program also helps educate the public about the value, selection, placement and welfare of trees.

"Many service outages and interruptions are caused by tree limbs that fall into power lines, causing damage to wires, short circuits and other problems. That creates potential damage for customers and customer’s property, as well as disruption of home and business operations. In 2012, trees caused 10 percent of the outages on OPPD’s system. OPPD proactively works hard to prevent such interruptions.

"Reliability is a key component of OPPD’s mission, which is to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy service to our customers.

"OPPD’s Vegetation Management Program is committed to controlling vegetation growth within power line rights-of-way to maintain the safe and reliable operation of the electric system. This minimizes adverse impacts on the environment. As part of the program, OPPD trims trees around power lines on a three- to five-year cycle. If birds are nesting in the area at the time trimming is scheduled, work is delayed.

"Additionally, federal, regional and electric industry regulations and standards require minimum safety clearances to ensure vegetation doesn’t come into contact with high-voltage overhead transmission lines. If vegetation located in the transmission right-of-way is not compatible with the safe operation of the system, it can result in widespread electric power outages or unsafe conditions for the public.

"Easement rights allow OPPD to enter the easement area to trim or remove vegetation and to trim trees adjacent to the right-of-way to eliminate danger trees that could potentially fall within 15 feet of the conductor. Right-of-way widths depend primarily on the size of the power line and typically range from 50 to 200 feet.

"As for the recent work at Levi Carter Park, an OPPD tree contractor worked this area last week. City of Omaha was notified and permission granted to remove brush and undesirable trees as needed. The contractor cleaned up after their work, and returned to pick up some logs they had to leave temporarily. The logs in the water have been there for quite some time, possibly years, and were not part of the recent trimming.

"Again, thank you for your concern."

John Buckley
Manager T&D Integrated Work Management