There is an inherent conflict between the trees that beautify our city and the power lines that keep our homes bright and warm.

Trees, and their limbs, sometimes fall. And when they fall onto power lines problems result, ranging from a few homes going without power to an entire neighborhood being left in the dark.

We understand, then, why Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative has to trim, and sometimes remove, trees growing close to power lines in the public right-of-way.

But many of those trees, though they’re in the public right-of-way, are the responsibility of the adjacent resident. And of course those trees also add value, both aesthetic and actual, to the private property.

We think it’s reasonable, then, that the city require OTEC to notify those private property owners before the cooperative or its contractor prunes or removes trees from the public right-of-way. The purpose of the notification is to give the property owner the option of hiring an arborist to do the work, which gives the resident some measure of control over the trimming. The work would still have to satisfy OTEC’s need for space between the tree and the power line.

The city’s current code doesn’t require advance notice of tree-trimming. The city’s Tree Board wants to change that, and it recommends OTEC and other utilities alert residents at least 30 days before pruning or removing trees.

Ned Ratterman, OTEC’s director of operations, told the City Council Tuesday that the 30-day requirement would complicate OTEC’s pruning schedule, and increase the cost. Ratterman suggested a notification period of one to two weeks. Councilors tabled the discussion Tuesday.

We understand OTEC’s concern. But we also think residents should have a reasonable chance to exert some influence on how trees are trimmed — albeit, at their own expense rather than OTEC’s.

We suggest a 21-day notification requirement. After all, the more people who choose to trim their trees, the less money OTEC has to spend to do the work.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.

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