Group of Kelowna residents upset with Fortis BC cutting down trees

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Residents upset about Fortis BC cutting down trees
Removing hazardous trees near powerlines is at times necessary but some Kelowna residents are pointing the finger at Fortis BC, accusing the utility giant of cutting down too many of them unnecessarily. They believe Fortis is doing it to cut costs but the company is assuring the community that cutting down a tree is always a last resort. Klaudia Van Emmerik reports – Sep 25, 2023

Tammy Brown wasn’t happy to lose her only front yard tree last month.

“What’s left is a stump, an ugly stump where a beautiful healthy tree used to be,” Tammy Brown told Global News.

The pine tree on Highland Drive South in Kelowna was cut down by Fortis BC much to Brown’s shock and dismay.

“Angry, upset, as anybody would be,” she said.

A Fortis spokesperson said the pine tree had to be cut down as it had become a problem tree.

“It continued to grow too close to a pole, said Nicole Brown, communications manager for Fortis. “It was under a transformer that provided power to multiple customers.”

But Tammy Brown said the tree, which had been there a long time, was always pruned.

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“We love having power and communications. So that wasn’t really the question. The question was, it had been trimmed before why couldn’t it just be trimmed again,” she said.

It’s a question also being asked by neighbour Terry Ward.

“We’ve always had good management of trees in utilities.  We’ve had trees that are trimmed on a regular basis every three to five years,” Ward said.

“If they become a hazard nobody will argue that.  You want to keep everyone safe. So trimming is necessary, but not the wanton disregard of the environment and take down trees that don’t need to be taken down.”

Highland Drive South is lined with a number of mature trees and with branches towering over powerlines, residents worry about what’s in store for those trees now.

“My fear is that there will be indiscriminate removal of trees,” Ward said.

On a neighbourhood community Facebook page, there is quite a bit of concern being expressed about trees being cut down.

“Lately what you’re seeing in these neighbourhoods is trees just being decimated, like it’s not pretty,” said Tammy Brown.

But Nicole Brown with Fortis said taking down a tree is always a last resort.

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“We typically will trim or top and remove only if it is a hazard or it’s been a problem for multiple years,” Brown said.

“But we also have to consider the safety of the community, reliable power to the community.”

However, some residents believe it’s the trimming of costs, not trees, Fortis is more concerned with.

I think the utilities are focused on cost and there’s no doubt that if I don’t have to, well, they don’t have to come back every three to five years to trim a tree, then that’s cheaper,” Ward said.

Nicole Brown said in certain cases, costs do factor in.

“Things are getting very expensive and we have to be very careful of the costs that we pass onto to the other customers and we can’t just keep going back to the same problem tree year after year,” she said.

Concerned residents, however, said they hope Fortis thinks twice before cutting down any more trees.

“I think it’s an easy solution but easy always isn’t the best,” Ward said.

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