TNMP cuts trees to prep for storms
By Basil Gist
The growing abundance of ‘L’ and ‘V’ shaped trees in and around Pilot Point is thanks to Texas New Mexico Power, who has mobilized contractors to trim trees away from their power lines.
Cutting in their prescribed way, which residents have said is too severe, serves to keep a given limb from damaging a line for up to five years.
“Storms can pop up any minute, so we’re making sure the trees aren’t in the wires,” TMNP representative Sara Yingling said.
“We have to cut them in a specific way. We’re not intentionally trying to make them look bad, but … the trees are trimmed a specific way on purpose.”
Yingling added that the trees being cut were not intentionally planted.
“These are wild trees, planted by birds, not trees planted by humans,” she said.
Though the trees are wild, contractors may be moving off the road.
“Those power lines are either going to be in the right of way or they’re going to be in an easement, either of which the power company has the right to come in at any time to maintain,” Pilot Point Development Services Director John Taylor said.
He further clarified that for many, their property does not extend all the way to the road though that is not always the case.
Yingling expounded, citing a tariff the company has to remove limbs as far as 10 feet from their lines, even if they are technically past the boundary of the easement.
“The contractor trims anything up to 10 feet off of the energized zone,” Yingling said. “Anything in the wire zone, we have the right to cut down.”
The retail delivery service tariff is accessible to the public at www.tnmp.com/customers/electric-safety-tips/trees-planting, in Section 5.4.8.
“We will attempt to contact you before entering your property, but it may be necessary [to do so],” the TNMP website states.
Yingling qualified the trimming as a sort of necessary evil.
“This is going to help when the next storm comes through,” she said. “It may not look the best. But would you rather have ugly trees or have your power out?”
Pilot Point resident Tatiana Ambrosio spoke with the company repeatedly about the severity of their chopping.
“What they want is to take them 8-10 feet back, that’s excessive,” Ambrosio said. “They’re not going to get 10 feet out of [some of the] trees because that will take them to the trunk.”
The smaller, or closer, of the trees some of which can be seen along Hill Street and Grove Street have been trimmed completely to the trunk.
“Utilities are obligated by PUC to maintain clearance in the wire zone for safety, power delivery and reliability,” TNMP Vegetation Manager and Certified Arborist Kyle Shackelton said in an email. “We use directional pruning (create fewer wounds but still get the clearance); fewer cuts, but bigger cuts, better to go farther back, to the node.”
Shackelton further expressed that TNMP’s contractors will not negotiate with residents. Trees are taken 10 feet from the line and no less.
“You can call the cops, you can call the city, you can do what you need to if you feel like we haven’t come to a resolution, but we’re going to trim the tree,” Shackelton said.