LCUB will work with residents on tree cutting


Jim Hollingsworth watches his 9-year-old son climb the trees in his yard nearly every day.

He worries those trees won't be there much longer.

Hollingsworth and other Farragut residents packed the town hall Tuesday night to learn the fate of the trees that line their property near the Farragut Greenway. The area includes Watt, Fritz and Grigsby Chapel roads.

Lenoir City Utilities Board officials plan to begin cutting some of the trees down in the next 45 days. They say the trees have to be cleared of the power lines that stretch nearly four miles through the area.

Clearing the trees will help reduce power failures and make room for crews to install newer, more efficient lines, said Fred Nelson, LCUB general manager. The lines carry too high a voltage - 65,000 volts - to be run underground, he said.

"These things have to happen," Nelson said. "We don't have a choice."

Residents say the cutting will threaten their property values and quality of life.

"That's an important thing for our children, to preserve the natural beauty of things," Hollingsworth said. "That's going to be lost."

The plan, which LCUB officials said remains in its early stages, would affect trees within 100 feet of the power lines. Residents worry that means hundreds - maybe thousands - of trees could come down.

Righ O'Leary said he bought his house so his children could play under the nearby weeping willow trees.

"My kids cried for a week when I told them their favorite tree was coming down," he said.

Officials said they'll work with each homeowner to save as many trees as they can. The board has offered to replace some of the trees with smaller dogwoods and redbuds.

"We will meet with everyone on a one-on-one basis to decide what we're going to do," Nelson said. "We've got a 100-foot easement. Are we going to cut all 100 feet? I hope not. We're trying to cover all the bases."

Construction on the new power lines could begin by spring.