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Raleigh man, Duke Energy face off over front yard tree

Posted May 29, 2015

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— A willow tree is the root of a legal battle between a Raleigh businessman and the nation's largest power company.

Duke Energy filed suit last week against John Kane Jr., the son of North Hills developer John Kane, claiming that the younger Kane won't accede to the utility's demand to remove the tree from his front yard on Brooks Avenue.

The tree is within Duke's easement across Kane's property and poses a threat to nearby 115,000-volt transmission lines that serve thousands of customers, the company said.

"Trees are one of the leading causes of outages in the Carolinas, and so, maintaining trees helps to reduce the number of outages and the duration of those outages," Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said. "As we go into the summer months that are ahead, the usage increases, and those lines can actually sag a little bit, and when they do, they can potentially come into contact with a tree."

Brooks said he couldn't speak specifically about Kane's tree because of the lawsuit, but he said the company evaluates trees to determine if they should be trimmed or removed. Any tree over 12 feet, he said, it meets the criteria for removal, and the easement gives the company the right to clear it out of the way.

Kane said the 44-foot-tall willow tree is a fixture in his yard and contends Duke is bullying him into removing it.

"The tree means a lot to us, to our family and the house," he said. "It's obviously a beautiful tree."

The company could simply prune some limbs to protect the power lines rather than take the whole tree, he said, adding that he offered to pay for the pruning himself.

"It's my belief that the reason they've taken this stance is because they are afraid to set a precedent that will be very costly to their bottom line," he said.

Duke also contends in its lawsuit that a 57-foot-tall dawn redwood tree on Kane's property encroaches on its easement across a neighbor's property. The neighbor has agreed that Duke has the right to remove the tree, but Kane has for months refused access to his property to cut it down, according to the suit.

A hearing on the dispute is set for Monday.


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  • Jim Wooten Jun 1, 2015
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    Well, no, you can't bury all the power lines. You can bury low and medium power lines at a cost of 4 to 10 times the cost of stringing them above ground but you can't bury high voltage lines no matter what the cost.

  • Belinda Warrick May 31, 2015
    user avatar

    You can bury all the electricity lines. It's done all over the country, mostly in large cities but in other countries some are doing it in all residential areas. For every tree removed they should plant 100 trees because not all planted trees survive and some will actually get removed to make way for more power, water sewer and housing a businesses. And they can't use just cheap pine trees but a variety including those trees that are endangered and some slow growing ones.

  • Kristin Byrne May 30, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Come on, now, if everyone used facts, the comments section wouldn't be as entertaining!

  • Ben Sanders May 30, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Careful, I don't think WRAL appreciates people using FACTS in their posts. Next time you might need to add more speculation and uneducated opinions.

  • Jim Wooten May 30, 2015
    user avatar

    Burying high voltage transmission lines undergound is a bold and impressive idea. Let's see, that would require a cavern like (waterproof) tunnel approximately 25-40 feet in diameter to keep the lines separated so they wouldn't start arcing to ground.

    You can only bury low voltage wires. The wires that get the electricity to your neighborhood have to be way up in the air.

  • Andrew Sugg May 30, 2015
    user avatar

    Do a search online for Duke Energy's pruning practices, particularly here in Durham. See below link from Greenville SC with picture of the typical "arborist approved" pruning sanctioned by Duke Energy. A) they are aesthetically pathetic looking, but B) this exacerbates the decline of any aging tree. More frequent, but less invasive trimming is the answer, as underground lines seem to be a pipe dream.


  • Shondon Wynn May 30, 2015
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    Tell the power company for every tree they remove they must plant 2 somewhere that is not encroaching on a power line and see how many trees they remove.

  • Charlotte Baggett May 30, 2015
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    take the trees down only if it is needed when you are digging the trenches to BURY the darn powerlines.....

  • Walter Smirth May 30, 2015
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    It is amazing how the state's number one polluter harasses a consumer....

  • Mike Jones May 30, 2015
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