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TVA policy won't bear fruit

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Billy Anderson is a printer by trade, but his real passion is taking care of the fruit trees that line his property on Bleich Road.

In fact, ever since he was a boy he has had a fascination with fruit.

"I grew up on a small farm in McCracken County," Anderson said. "We didn't have fruit trees, but I picked fruit (at nearby orchards). It's always interested me."

Anderson, 69, is a retired printer with The Paducah Sun. His interest in fruit led him to plant his first fruit trees on his property some 35 years ago. Since then he has kept his passion alive by meticulously tending and trimming his fruit and nut trees and harvesting countless bushels of apples, pears, peaches and pecans.

He shares his bounty with family and friends and, since 1988, has been selling the surplus to help cover the cost of maintaining his hobby.

His trees are located within the 150-foot easement of the Tennessee Valley Authority's high-voltage transmission lines on his property. Anderson maintains he has always kept the trees trimmed and never been told by TVA (upon on-site inspection) that they were a problem. That is, until now.

About a month ago, Anderson was notified that all 26 of his trees were going to be cut down.

"It absolutely stunned me," he said. In a letter he sent to Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Rep. Ed Whitfield seeking help, he summed up his feelings: "In one swift blow, they have changed my life forever."

Anderson said he feels like the rules were changed without him knowing it. "That bugs me ... it really does."

Travis Brickey, TVA spokesman, said the company has always had a strict vegetation management policy. If Anderson wasn't told his trees were a problem in the past, it may have been more of a TVA budget issue at the time and not an indication of a change in policy, Brickey said.

"We've always been vigilant in keeping the right-of-way underneath our lines clear of vegetation," Brickey said.

TVA has approximately 16,000 line miles of transmission line, according to Brickey.

"We apply a consistent and fair policy in every service area, whether it's in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi or Alabama. The same standards apply to everybody," Brickey said. "Any tree or vegetation more than 15 feet in maturity (in the easement) will have to be removed. We have to make sure we have a safe and reliable transmission system. If the lines go down, people are in the dark."

Brickey said issues like the one involving Anderson come up from time to time. The company provides a lot of information on its website to help keep the public informed, he said. Anyone buying a house needs to find out what easements are in place, Brickey said.

Anderson agrees, adding a caveat.

"If young people are looking for land and they find TVA has an easement ... they better rethink it."

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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