Wirth told residents that PPL’s right-of-way property easements give the company the right to remove trees, but it was not enforced in the past.
PPL will cut down and remove trees and grind out their stumps to below ground level Trees with branches that extend into the right-of-way will be trimmed.
Diseased or damaged trees that might fall into the power lines also may be removed.
Referring to homes along Sauerkraut Lane that will lose privacy when all their trees are cut down, Commissioner Ryan Conrad said: “That’s going to drastically affect the landscape there.”
Added Eichenberg: “Not only the landscape – it’s also going to affect property values.”
Wirth said trees coming into contact with power lines are a major cause of large power outages, “especially our 69-kilovolt transmission lines like the ones here in Lower Macungie.” He told commissioners no state or federal mandate requires that PPL must remove trees in the rights-of-way of 69-kilovolt lines, but PPL is doing it to prevent such outages from happening. “We believe it’s the right thing to do for safe and reliable electric service for all the customers we serve.”
Wirth said 10 or 11 of the 69-kv lines in the Lehigh Valley area were knocked out by trees during Hurricane Sandy. “It was a fairly widespread problem.” He could not say if the 69-kv line running through Lower Macungie was one of them.
He said PPL already has completed tree removal on rights-of-way of all its higher voltage lines. “After the hurricane, there was not a single tree-related power outage on any of those higher voltage lines where this work had been done.”
Accompanying Wirth was PPL regional forester Earl Burnside and William Klokis, head of vegetation management at PPL. Wirth said Burnside already has met with many residents.
Burnside said when he meets with them, he takes a copy of the right-of-way easement for their specific property and shows it to them, especially “where it says the rights that we have.”
Wirth said PPL only does the work permitted by its easement for each property. “In all cases we have valid property easements to do this work.”