OPPD hears concerns about tree easement at Board of Directors meeting

The project affects an area from 108th and Blondo to 123rd and Pacific in Omaha.
OPPD reiterated that trees in a northwest Omaha easement must go.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 10:25 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Most came to the OPPD board meeting knowing their trees are still going to fall, but they still have questions.

“We would like to know the timeline, what to expect, how this transfer is going to happen, and are there going to be more poles,” asked resident Mary Barnette.

OPPD insists it’s a question of right-of-way, not right and wrong. Some of the 125 affected homeowners disagree.

“You’re acting, frankly, like a schoolyard bully,” said Barbara Haggert, “that goes and knocks off the head of the snowmen that kindergartners built that day because you can do it. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

OPPD’s CEO and his engineers have already agreed they must replace transmission lines installed in the 1950s, and the best place to do it is along the same corridor.

“That’s 70 years ago,” said OPPD president and CEO Javier Fernandez. “It would have been hard to envision an Omaha west of 120th Street, and I suspect very few could have envisioned the vibrant metropolitan community of 2023. This transmission line from 108th and Blondo to 123rd and Pacific is a critical part of our infrastructure. It has been for many years.”

To rebuild means, first, trees -- including dozens of old, beautiful trees, anything over 10 feet high in the easement -- are coming down, and there’s little residents can do about it.

“As I’ve struggled with the challenges you all are experiencing, for me it comes back to the importance of safety in this work,” said Craig Moody. “It’s a big project, it’s a high-risk project, and these are very dangerous lines and they are not to be messed with.”

“We take these steps and we don’t take them lightly,” said Dannie Buelt, OPPD’s director of engineering, utility and operations department. “We know the impacts that we’re having hit him to a lot of people, but it’s a necessary part to a pretty complicated and dangerous profession that we’re in.”

Homeowners will receive damage settlements, from replacement trees to property repairs. Perhaps easing the pain of losing the shade that majestic trees have provided for the last half-century.

The cutting has already begun, with construction beginning this fall, and completion slated for 2024. Find the project timeline.