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Tree Trimming Goes Local

Dominion Virginia Power has started trimming near distribution lines in Oakton.

Dominion Virginia Power has begun trimming trees along the Hunter Mill Road corridor. The utility company is trimming branches and trees that it believes threaten the power distribution lines.

This trimming project, however, will not likely require the same level of tree removal that has been occurring along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, said Le-Ha Anderson, spokesperson for Dominion. "The trimming along distribution lines is not as wide as it is along a transmission corridor," Anderson said.

Transmission lines, such as those along the trail, are higher voltage and connect areas that are far apart. They serve greater numbers of customers than distribution lines and have become the subject of federal scrutiny since the major northeast power blackout in August 2003.

The trimming program along the trail has generated controversy from residents who say that Dominion is being overly aggressive in its trimming practices.

The area for distribution lines covers a narrower lane, so fewer trees are affected, Anderson said. The trimming is generally going to include Hunter Mill Road between Lawyers and Chain Bridge roads. Affected side streets will include, but are not limited to, Wickens Road, Samaga Drive, Marbury Road, Miller Road, Fox Mill Road and Vale Road.

THE TRIMMING is part of Dominion's three-year cycle of tree trimming. Tree branches that hang over lines will be removed. In addition, arborists will analyze the trees and trim anything they consider likely to grow to a height that will threaten the lines within three years.

Members of the Hunter Mill Defense League, a group that works on a variety of different projects along the Hunter Mill Corridor, are concerned about the potential impact on traffic. "The streetscape is a significant factor on the speed of any roadway," said Jeanette Twomey, president of the League.

Trees along the sides of the road make it feel narrower, which in turn make drivers slow down, she said.

Additionally, the trees help to maintain the atmosphere of Hunter Mill Road. "Trees create a community feel as opposed to an industrial feel," said Bruce Bennett of the League.

The trimming, Anderson said, is not likely to alter the streetscape dramatically. "Typically, we don't remove the trees," she said.

Most of the lines are in a public right of way, said Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence). Residents cannot typically do anything to stop activities that occur in the right of way.

If a tree is on private property, Dominion will work with the property owner to secure permission before trimming, Anderson said.

While Dominion does not have a tree-replacement program for trees removed during distribution trimming, the company will work with property owners, Anderson said.

Smyth encouraged residents to examine the copy of the survey they would have received when they bought their house. That survey should record what, if any, easements are on the property. "Know what kind of easement you have," Smyth said.

Residents who have misplaced their surveys can go to the Land Records Division of the Fairfax County Circuit Court, 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax.

Smyth also advised talking to the crews that come to trim, since they can often explain why a certain tree or part of a tree must be removed and tend to be more careful when they know someone is home. "If someone is there and talking to them, they do a more considerate job," she said.