OPPD dispute over trees causing static reaction among landowners

An outdated power line is being replaced to add more capacity.
A swath of trees OPPD wants to cut down to replace an aging power structure is causing electric reactions from landowners.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Sparks flew almost immediately as an OPPD project team explains to three homeowners why most of their backyard trees will be cut down.

An outdated power line is being replaced to add more capacity, but these homeowners want more compassion toward trees in the easement OPPD has the right to remove and is already cutting down.

“Having a clear corridor makes it a lot safer for operations and safe for our crews as we go out,” said Jake Farrell with OPPD land management. “If something does happen, there’s less likelihood a tree would hit a power line and cause an outage.”

“No reasonable person is going to say those trees will interfere with those power lines,” says homeowner Jim Trebbien.

50 feet on either side of the power line must be cleared of all trees, regardless of height.

And the tree removal project is already buzzing along. OPPD says it has to be complete by April -- the start of the migratory bird season.

The tree clearing under the power line starts at Blondo and runs to Pacific Street, with 125 homeowners losing backyard shade.

“I guarantee you 95% of the people along here don’t know what’s starting to happen already,” said homeowner David Warren.

OPPD says starting in November, all homeowners along the easement received three phone calls until reached to notify them trees would be cut down. There were also letters sent to many of them last week.

“Would you allow us to gather the residents of this community so we have a little bit more understanding of what’s going on?,” asked HOA president Matt Garland.

“Rather than hold a full town-hall type meeting, it felt more prudent and appropriate to reach out directly to landowners,” Farrell said.

OPPD says cutting down trees in its right-of-way is the only safe way to put up a new power line and maintain it for years to come.

“Impacts of us accessing to do this are going to be significant, and we will address and work with these landowners,” Farrell said.

But homeowners complain the utility needs a better line of communication with them.

“I have two trees that will be gone that have been there 30-40 years,” Warren said.

OPPD says the old lattice-style towers built in the 1950s will be replaced by modern steel structures. The construction phase starts this fall. OPPD will have teams in neighborhoods to assess any damage to fences or property and compensate affected homeowners.