KU tree cutting draws criticism from Lexington residents, city leaders

Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 19:33:58-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington residents and city leaders are calling on Kentucky Utilities to re-evaluate a policy that will bring down dozens of trees across the city.

The KY policy requires the removal of any trees taller than 10 feet growing under power lines.

Previously, the utility company trimmed trees that threatened to affect power lines, but in 2014 implemented the tree cutting policy as part of its Transmission System Improvement Plan.

The vegetation management program, which began in rural areas, started being implemented in urban areas in 2019.

Steve Reid will lose every tree in his backyard in the Lakeview area.

“It’s going to completely alter the terrain, our view, property values, and my satisfaction with what I’m living with,” Reid said.

Reid is also concerned with the environmental impact the tree removals will have in his area. He said the neighborhood deals with drainage issues during storms and he’s concerned it will only worsen without the trees to help regulate the problem.

Instead, he said he wants KU to continue trimming the neighborhood’s trees as they’ve done during the decade he’s lived in the area.

“The water problem is going to be much worse,” he said. “To make this type of alteration seems draconian, unnecessary, and particularly insensitive to the community's needs.”

On Tuesday, residents facing tree cuttings packed a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council work session to express concerns over the impact the policy may have on property values and the environment.

KU transmission right-of-way coordinator Kevin Montgomery said trimming trees is not an efficient way to maintain power lines.

The utility company maintains the same policy across its coverage area in the state.

Lance Lawrence, a 13-year Lakeside area resident, will lose nine trees.

He said KU’s approach is ‘disappointing’ and he believes tree cutting should occur on a case-by-case basis.

“I didn’t think they would take the scorched earth approach and just eliminate everything,” he said.

Lawrence said he removed two trees from his property recently because they were causing issues with the transmission lines. He said he’s willing to work with KU to remove trees when necessary.

“If there are some trees identified that could become risks to the transmission lines, I think we can work with that,” Lawrence said. “Let’s be reasonable.”

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said city leaders have been meeting with KU officials to work on a resolution.

“I believe, in most cases, we don’t have to cut down trees to maintain the safety of reliable electricity. I am asking KU to do the right thing for Lexington,” Gorton wrote in a tweet.

On Twitter, Gorton listed six ‘reasonable’ requests made to the utility company regarding their policy.

  1. Consider the potential for changes and compromise to reduce the amount of tree cutting currently taking place.
  2. Consider more robust revegetation on private & public property easements.
  3. Provide better notification to neighborhoods & neighbors when there are plans to cut trees along electrical line routes.
  4. Allow City to provide input on the stormwater study KU intends to conduct.
  5. Study the Kentucky geological survey maps for sinkhole impacts from tree cutting.
  6. Implement at least a 30-day moratorium on tree cutting to study and consider these requests.

A KU spokesperson said the company is reviewing concerns raised during the work session and has delayed tree cuttings in some areas while more information is being gathered.