Homeowners Stand Up Against TVA Tree Cutting
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Newlyweds Anthony and Jenny Billingsley say what they love most about their Spring Valley neighborhood is under attack.
"We know people that have come home and their trees are down," said Anthony Billingsley. "This neighborhood is very proud of our trees, and we've already lost quite a few."
The Tennessee Valley Authority has implemented a new policy for 16,000 miles of transmission tower right-of-way.
It calls for the removal of any trees 15 feet tall, or with the potential to reach that height.
The Billingsleys worry about the impact on wildlife.
"It's been done during the spring, during nesting season, with no check of birds nests," said Billingsley.
Chattanooga City leaders fear environmental implications.
Fewer trees mean more runoff into nearby creeks.
"We're having to deal with clean water issues in this community and the EPA," said City Council Vice Chairman Peter Murphy, "and we've got a federal agency working across purposes."
Murphy brought the issue up at Tuesday night's council meeting.
The group will likely take a stand with residents by passing resolution against the tree cutting practice.
Murphy says the move would be intended to encourage the TVA to use "common sense".
"This is going to have TVA wrapped up in federal court in litigation for quite some time," he said.
In Knoxville, homeowners have already filed a class action lawsuit to save the trees.
The Billingsleys are joining them.
But TVA isn't budging.
Rob Manning, the utility's Chief Energy Delivery Officer, can be seen on TVA's website saying new federal guidelines are to blame
Manning goes on to explain the new policy is the most cost effective way to ensure reliability.
"We do not compromise when it comes to safety or reliability," he said. "Trees and other objects do not have to touch a high voltage line to cause injury, fire, or damage."
Anthony Billingsley says his trees pose no risk.
Now pink ribbons warn crews to make like a tree and leave.
"I may lose them in the end, but iIm not going to give up without a fight," he said.
Billingsley, who has started an online petition, is going to Knoxville Thursday to join residents in federal court on the matter.
Channel 3's calls to TVA for comment on this story have not been returned.