Mayor: Lexington officials and Kentucky Utilities Company reach joint resolution

Mayor Linda Gorton’s Office has released the following news bulletin:

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, and officials with Kentucky Utilities Company today announced a joint resolution addressing the utility’s vegetation management practices related to the cutting and removal of trees located under power transmission lines throughout Fayette County.

At issue were tree trimming, removal and replacement practices, which are part of KU’s ongoing system maintenance. The work is designed to maintain and protect the utility’s infrastructure and enhance the safety and reliability of the system by keeping trees — widely acknowledged as one of the biggest threats to power lines — from coming in contact with overhead, high-voltage electric transmission lines.

In response to community concerns, Mayor Gorton asked that KU consider six requests related to its vegetation program, and paused litigation filed by the city to halt the work. Tree cutting and removal under KU’s transmission lines within the Lexington-Fayette County area has been suspended for more than eight months as the two sides conducted good faith negotiations, which ultimately led to the mutual agreement.

“We asked KU for an agreement that would preserve our electrical grid and protect our trees and the beauty of our neighborhoods. I started working on this with KU long before the cutting began last year, and laid the foundation for this agreement,” Gorton said. “KU listened. We worked together and now have a good plan that is appropriate for our city.”

“While we take a thoughtful approach to the vegetation management efforts required to maintain our system, after evaluating our existing processes, we’ve made some modifications to address concerns raised by Mayor Gorton and community members,” said Beth McFarland, vice president of Transmission at KU and sister utility LG&E. “We appreciate the city’s willingness to work together to reach the best resolution for the city and our customers.”

Among the updates to KU’s vegetation management program:

  • KU is modifying the analysis used to determine which trees, within or on the borders of its transmission rights-of-way, must be trimmed or removed;
  • Monetary compensation for private property owners with trees impacted by the work will increase by 20%, during the initial reclaim cycle;
  • And the utility will continue its coordination with the city on replantings on public property.

Gorton’s six requests, met by KU, were:

  • Consider potential for changes and compromise to reduce the amount of tree cutting
  • More robust revegetation on private and public property easements
  • Better notification to neighborhoods and neighbors
  •  Allow LFUCG to provide input on the stormwater study KU intends to conduct in the Lakeside area
  • Study the Kentucky geological survey maps for potential sinkhole impacts
  • Implement at least a minimum 30-day moratorium to consider the above requests.

Councilmembers voted their initial approval of the joint Memorandum of Understanding back on July 5. With tonight’s final approval by the Council, the city will dismiss its previously suspended legal action and KU will resume its vegetation management work under the new agreement.

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