Severe wind storms raise questions about KU’s tree cutting policy

After Friday’s severe winds, several power outages were caused by trees falling onto power lines.
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 5:35 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After Friday’s severe winds, several power outages were caused by trees falling onto power lines.

As power crews work to restore electricity, could this change tree-cutting policies down the road?

The city says their first priority was clearing roadways and getting essential services back up and running. While there are a few remaining dark traffic signals awaiting power restoration, crews have been at work clearing trees from parks and other areas.

Nancy Albright is the commissioner for Environmental Quality and Public Works and says she was devastated after the 300-year-old bur oak tree came down in Friday’s storm after they spent so much time and energy trying to preserve it.

It’s a constant effort to maintain, trim and protect trees year-round, hoping to reduce the harm and damage that can happen when mother nature serves the city a heavy hand. Albright says they have worked closely with KU in recent years to try to limit the number of trees that have to be cut down entirely and try instead to trim back the ones that can be saved.

“We want to preserve the trees wherever we can, and when we cannot do that, we want to actively replace the canopy as best we can. So we do have to walk that line and balance those decisions, and again do we mean you can’t let a tree mean you finish a construction project that may provide an outlet for a community or a path to school for folks. So you don’t always have the ability to say we can’t remove a tree, but it does always come after a thoughtful debate,” said Albright.

“In doing that, it saves outages. It prevents outages,” said KU spokesperson Daniel Lowry. Investments that we’ve made in our system in those tree-trimming efforts have reduced outages and duration and frequency of them by 35 percent since 2011.

Lowry says had KU not been doing their tree-trimming work as required by federal law, there would have been even more outages than we saw the last few days. He says it also helps the restoration process so crews can get in and out of areas easier to begin their work.