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Part 2

As trees began to grow taller beneath the aerial power lines at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, it was apparent there eventually would be a conflict between the Center's programs and the need for Duke Energy to maintain its right-of-way and provide service to customers. In the early 1990s, Duke was understanding about the Center's special needs and did no cutting or herbicide spraying; at that time, inquiries were made by Center executive director Bill Hilton Jr. about re-routing the lines or burying them elsewhere on the property, but no action was taken by Duke.

By late 1999, when trees were touching and being scorched by power lines, Henry Wallace (Duke Energy right-of-way coordinator for the Central Region) contacted Hilton to explain that Duke could no longer defer right-of-way maintenance and that tree crews would need to clear a 20-foot-wide path through the entire 1,500-foot right-of-way.

Because such a wide swath would have major impact on research and education initiatives of the Center, and because the right-of-way would need to be maintained in perpetuity, Hilton requested that Duke Energy devise a plan to re-route service. After careful study, Duke engineering supervisor Beverly H. Paull determined that each of several alternatives would require neighboring property owners to cut trees on their own properties, it was apparent that re-routing was not an option. Thus, the decision was made to take down the aerial service and bury the power lines.

Transferring service underground would still require cutting of some trees, but vegetation can be allowed to re-grow permanently on an underground right-of-way. Paull and engineering associate Johnny Parker devised a plan by which the underground line could follow a path near the DeVinney Road boundary of the Center and have less impact on the primary bird banding areas than would cutting for aerial lines. Duke's district manager Tim Gause, right-of-way facilitator Bill Reames, and Wallace visited Hilton Pond to assure that underground service would be installed with the greatest possible sensitivity to the special needs of the Center. Wallace also visited the site with Michael Hough, crew foreman for Davey Tree, to explain the need for conservative and judicious cutting of trees and shrubs to be removed for the underground installation.

Under these assurances, Hilton agreed to pay Duke Energy to remove the aerial lines, and work was scheduled to begin on Monday, 24 January. Ironically, it was on the night of 23 January that a major snowstorm hit Hilton Pond Center, requiring that Duke Energy crews enter the property to take down ice-laden trees that were touching aerial lines and knocking out power for neighboring homes (see Winter Storm Damage).

© Hilton Pond Center

The 23 January 2000 storm caused extensive snow and ice damage at Hilton Pond Center. Wes's Meadow (above)--the primary area for netting rare Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus)--was hit especially hard; several large Eastern Red Cedars (Juniperus virginiana) eventually had to be removed from the clearing. In addition, about 30 trees in the aerial power line right-of-way iced up and bent onto electrical wires and had to be cut--even though an underground power line installation scheduled to begin the next day would have allowed them to be spared.

Back to Part 1 of Underground Power Installation; on to Part 3

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.