On Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., the Lake Oswego City Council will consider the adoption of a Community Forestry Plan, which can be viewed on-line at the city's Web site.
This plan promotes many of the positive aspects of trees within our community, some of which I agree with. The purpose of the plan, as stated in the Jan. 16, council minutes is to 'bring together city policies, practices and plans related to trees, and to support tree stewardship on public and private property with an integrated, cooperative approach.' The plan, itself, states that it 'seeks to
integrate regulatory measures with voluntary community stewardship and city-led management (p. 7). The problem with this is that to be both regulatory and voluntary at the same time is an oxymoron and this plan over-promotes the positive aspects of trees. There is another side of the story that needs to be told.
According to Dave Johnson of PGE, tree trimming, including topping trees, is a necessary and ongoing process in order to keep the trees clear of high voltage power lines. Due to the number of trees here in Lake Oswego, it takes two crews two years to clear all of the lines. The expense of this on-going work, which is paid by Lake Oswego rate payers is $1.3 million for the two-year project, or $650,000 a year. In addition, it's difficult for PGE to predict costs that may occur for emergency services associated with extreme weather conditions resulting in branches and trees falling on the power lines. In the mid-l980s recovery from a severe ice storm left PGE financially weakened, and the door was opened for Enron to acquire it. In my opinion, it is financially irresponsible to plant more street trees, which the Community Forestry Plan is calling for.
Here in Lake Oswego, we seldom focus on fire hazard except during summer months or during conditions of drought, but as we know from our neighbors in Bend and California, fire can be devastating and is often unpredictable. I called the fire department to inquire about LO's fire policy regarding trees and a brochure was forwarded that was vague, but it did mention hazards of trees and other plantings near structures. The Community Forestry Plan seems short-sighted in this respect and layer after layer of regulations could result in even more anguish for an owner who has lost property and needs to rebuild.
If you drive around Lake Oswego and observe roofs of houses that are under trees, it becomes apparent that there is more moss growth on roofs that are under trees. Moss deteriorates most roofing materials faster than normal, as it produces and retains moisture. Re-roofing means these materials, often large quantities, are sent to landfills. The Community Forestry Plan attributes a value of $14,000 to each tree (a claim that is unsupported by verifiable methods), but when considering the structural deterioration they cause, I believe the $14,000 is grossly inflated.
Among other liabilities that result from trees is that they invite insects. Gypsy moth traps have been placed on my property in the past and occasionally I see Gypsy moths during summer months. They can multiply rapidly and completely devastate a forest and the chemicals necessary to exterminate them are hazardous to humans. Wet leaves on streets have been known to cause automobile accidents, as they are slippery. Trees also interfere with solar energy, a detriment when the trend toward green construction is growing bigger and bigger.
The regulatory aspects of the Urban Community are a grave concern to me because we already have extensive regulations with our current tree code. To identify every tree in LO and to have the city then prescribe maintenance for it seems like another attempt to intrude into our lives and to interfere with our property rights.
Carolyne R. Jones is a resident of Lake Oswego.