Heritage Tree Protected by Seattle City Light Employees

Seattle City Light vegetation management crews and pole engineers joined forces recently to move power lines away from a large Pacific madrone tree, to avoid extensive trimming necessary to keep its branches away from a feeder line.
Photo of Pacific madrone tree.

Seattle City Light employees developed a plan to protect this 60-foot Pacific Madrone from conflicts with power lines. (Photo via Google Earth)

Trimming trees near power lines is a delicate dance between public safety and the health of the tree.

For a large tree in the Bryant neighborhood, the best move turned out to be the sidestep.

Seattle City Light vegetation management crews and pole engineers joined forces recently to move power lines away from a large Pacific madrone tree, to avoid extensive trimming necessary to keep its branches away from a feeder line.

The tree in question is a 60-foot tall tree near Calvary Cemetery. It was designated as a Heritage Tree by the Seattle Department of Transportation in 2010 because it is one of the largest known madrone trees in the city. The Heritage Tree Program protects trees that are valuable because of their history, landmark status, notable collection, or unusual size and form.

The tree grew next to a pole, and over the years its branches have gotten too close to the power lines. It was trimmed in the past, but in 2006, a new owner bought the house and yard with the tree, and he was concerned that aggressive trimming would hurt the tree.

“It is a huge tree, straight out of a Tim Burton movie,” said Ross Good, the tree owner. Besides the health of the tree, Mr. Good was concerned that if the tree died, he would be stuck with the $12,000 bill to remove it from his property.

The issue came to a head this year, when crews informed him that they needed to trim the tree again because it was dangerously close to the lines.

Shane Allen, a line clearance crew member, met with Good and after thinking about it, he proposed a solution: the pole next to the tree could be moved across the street. He offered the idea to Pole Engineer Anthony Bolden. Since the pole was a dead end, Bolden saw that it could be relocated without too many changes to the feeder line, so he drew up a plan and a design.

The work order was approved and filed at the end of February, and it is currently awaiting permits. The pole could be moved in as little as four weeks, depending on work load.

“This happened to be a great situation, with an exceptional tree and a line that could be relocated,” said David Bayard, arboriculturist with City Light’s Vegetation Management. “It’s a good example of our folks doing the right thing by the trees.”

Bolden stressed that pole removals and relocations to protect a tree are rare. It was possible in this case because the power lines already cross the street a short distance from the madrone tree, so installing a new pole was not too complicated.

Good was pleased with the solution.

“I was pursuing different venues to see if we could fix this, and Seattle City Light took it upon themselves to take care of it,” he said. “It’s great that this worked out.”

The Heritage Tree Program stated in 1996 as a partnership with the preservation organization PlantAmnesty. For more information, visit www.seattle.gov/transportation/heritagetree.htm .