Nothing is certain…

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Benjamin Franklin


It can be added that you can’t fight the Tennessee Valley Authority aka: the *TVA.


Very recently we went back up to work on the Mountain Farmlet to find that the TVA had been there to clear for the power lines that traverse the length and breadth of our property.  We knew they would have to come sooner or later because the trees had begun to grow through the lines.  We further knew that this is a dangerous condition, a safety hazard for our property and the folks who live in and around our hollow.

Knowing this did not prepare us for the reality of what they did.


This can be made to look good again, but it will require a tremendous amount of work and a tractor which we do not have and cannot afford at the moment.

Things that I have found out in my research are mind-boggling.

  • Loss of timber is not reimbursed to the landowner.
  • The TVA can clear out anything you plant there if it is not on their list of approved plantings (and in some cases they cleared it anyway).
  • You can hire someone to do the work of trimming, but because they can’t count on the homeowner to “… keep it up.” they may still mow it all down anyway.  Your loss for hiring of the tree surgeon.
  • They can come in and spray **chemicals to keep the plants from growing back.

The TVA, as I understand it, is supposed to do the following:

  • Notify you of their intention to cut down and remove the growth on their right of way.
  • Protect animal habitat.
  • Protect Native American artifact sites.
  • Allow you to plant their preapproved list of native plants.  (this is iffy)

They have had the right to many of the rights of way for as far back as 1933.  If you are a home/land owner the onis is on you to research the legalities of any right of way through your property.  It is opined that you should go back at least 100 years.

Nobody tells you this stuff.

Our thoughts to ease the look of this harsh gash through the property is to hire a tree buyer to come in and cut down much of the pine.  I will have to interview the tree buyers to find one I can trust to not just mow as he goes!  And, although most of it is non native and should go anyway, I will have to do some bushwhacking over the next two years to mark the trees I want to keep, and of course, ALL the hardwoods stay!

I want to keep the largest of the native pines in stands and eliminate all the dense saplings that are constantly rotting and falling down due to lack of sunlight.

My ideal is to have lovely pasture, surrounded by native woods that have been thinned for their health.  I wish to keep our walking path around the outside of the property and to use one of the gashes as an access road to the new pasture in the middle.  I hope that the tree buyer will do his work for the cost of the trees he removes.  Some will, but I still have a trust issue about how they will accomplish the job.  At least now they have an easy access route to get into the woods and do the work. (read that last line with deepest sarcasm)

This will take a very long time.

In the meantime, I am heartened to know that the deer are apparently happy with the TVA’s new super highway they made for them; tracks are everywhere!

Want to know more about the TVA and their zero tolerance policy on power-line under growth? 

Look here:

Activist Larry Silverstein’s Battle With TVA’s Tree-Cutting

TVA Frequently asked questions

FERC –  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Help: Tree Trimming and Vegetation Management Landowners

Filed under Cr@p – This just in on TVA tree removal policy… Grrrr…!

* The TVA has about 15,900 miles of transmission lines and services about 9 million people in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

**At this time the TVA says they can spray “Environmentally safe chemicals” (their assertion as to the safety) onto the right of way to keep the growth from growing back.


40 thoughts on “Nothing is certain…

  1. Littlesundog says:

    I had to look up what TVA was! LOL Since Forrest works for a power generation facility, I have an understanding of why they do what they do, but I also understand that as a property owner it’s disconcerting to see how tree removal and trimming is done. The clear cut in your photos looks like a fairly clean job. I have seen some horrible, hacked up messes in this part of the country. I would doubt there is ever a “pre-approved” list of native plants. Power companies are not going to take the time to do anything but do the clear-cutting and weed control in a quick and inexpensive manner as possible. That means clearing the right-of-way and spraying chemical to keep weeds and sapling growth down.

    Also, because we live on property which is five acres of woodand, I will tell you it is expensive to do clearing whether it is hired or self accomplished. I have no idea the expense in fuel to run chain saws and our tractor in clearing trees and brush. I run a burn pile whenever weather and conditions allow – all year long. It’s constant work – that’s how I stay in shape (a benefit to doing it yourself), but it’s also proven to give both FD and me some injuries! It would have been great to have tackled this place when we were in our 20’s. You are very lucky to have people who will trade wood for labor. They don’t do that here. And you are very wise to doubt trustworthiness. Hardwoods (especially nut trees in these parts) are much sought after. Not sure I would trust anyone here.

    • Lynda says:

      Lori, the cut by the creek was right up along a tremendous Shag Bark Hickory nut tree, so close… my heart was racing till I saw that it still remained. It is such a beautiful tree and provides food for the critters here.

      As for the “pre-approved” plantings I can tell you that the list does exist ( 😀 ) and about half of what is permitted is native to the US. That was a nice surprise! Of course, I will have to do my homework and make sure we don’t plant anything that is detrimental to the livestock.
      Here is the list: It is of note that they advise you to call first to get approval before you do anything under their power lines. 😛

      • Littlesundog says:

        That link looks to contain a lot of low-growing bushes and shrubs!! Cool!! FD wondered if TVA has an actual forestry person on staff – because you have more forested areas than we do, which is wonderful! That way you will still be able to attract wildlife with plenty of edibles. FD also explained more about NERC and FERC compliance regulation regarding maintenance on right-of-way. Often the generation and distribution facilities are simply complying with government regulation – which of course sometimes makes no sense to practicality of nature and resources. Lynda, I love your passion for landscaping with nature in mind. I can just see the new Mountain Farmlet flourishing with all sorts of critters!! 🙂

        • Lynda says:

          Regarding compliance regulation: I couldn’t believe that it took only one tree falling in a storm to knock out power to the whole NE region and into Canada! That is when the government started the radical no tree left behind cleanup policy. If the utilities left a tree, and it fell knocking out power, then the utility was liable and would be fined. (a million a day comes to mind, but I would have to go back and read the article again…)

          Because of govt. policy the TVA goes to extremes with the larger power towers that come from the generators on the Tennessee river. Even so, when the tornadoes came through in 2011 it wasn’t the trees that pulled them down leaving us without power for a week; it was the wind. 😯

  2. dogear6 says:

    It’s frustrating, but not a surprise that this is something the government can do without making an effort to do it right or in a way that makes sense for everyone.


    • Lynda says:

      Nancy, I suppose I should be glad that we didn’t live in one of the hollows that is now under water from the TVA dam and energy work done in the 1930’s. This is mild stuff compared to the hardships they faced. Nevertheless, it is hard to look at.

    • Lynda says:

      Nancy, I have seen how fast the clear-cut areas have grown back in other places here! I believe that we will be out there at least once a month to remove the undesirables! (read: non-native/invasive growth)

  3. cecilia says:

    how awfully dissappointing.. makes you want to find out where they live (these are actual men in diggers and rippers and toppers) and just mow right through the flower beds in their back yards.. though of course that is petty and so forth but .. however!!

  4. Jane says:

    Even though you were expecting it to happen at some time, I can certainly imagine the shock you felt when you viewed the damage. As for pesticides being used, that could be a serious issue for anyone trying to get or keep their “organic” label for any produce grown. Here in Australia we have very strict rules about labeling something as organically grown or bred. It means if a neighbour ends up using pesticides and other treatments people can lose the organic certification that may have taken years and much funds to establish. My own experience with these type of maintenance/safety projects is there is often little or no warning and their is little done to minimise the damage. I hope you feel better about it soon. It sounds like you have many ideas, but as you said, it can take a long time.

  5. treadlemusic says:

    Government entities (either arms of the gov’t or under some type of contract) seem to have privilege and immunity…….a landowner is the last one to have any say about what happens on/to their property!!! We learned that long ago as we are surrounded by DNR state land on 3 sides of our farm!!!!

    • Lynda says:

      Doreen, if for any reason we ever move again, you can be sure we will be digging and delving into the land rights and easements issues thoroughly! I trust your issues with the DNR State lands is a problem with the hunters?

      • treadlemusic says:

        You understand correctly. It has mellowed out a bit in recent years but still maps, etc, are handed out to everyone at the State Fair in St. Paul every year then these ppl, who think it truly is “their” land and right to spread out over the whole area, come down, cross fences, kill indiscriminately (critters other than what are legal!!!!) and go home. The DNR don’t manage the trees, mend their fences, take care of the land or make good neighbors when contacted about these issues. More land is continually purchased by the state w/o $$$ allocated to management!!!!! And WE are paying for this travesty!!!! Rant finished for the moment………………………………

  6. Na Na says:

    So sad. Brings back memories of when our local utility cut down all the trees that lined our city street. They replanted with short trees of some undetermined type. All the neighbors got together and cut them all down. The stuff falling from the new trees was strong enough to remove paint from cars. Thankfully the utility hasn’t bothered to replant again.

    Hmm, yours looks like an opportunity to plant wild flowers. Possibly something the deer like to eat and will stay away from a garden.

  7. shoreacres says:

    I just don’t know what to say. I have several things I could say, but I think I’ll save them until my blood pressure’s gone down, and I’ve given them a little thought.

    Strangely, there are some similarly frustrating things going on around here regarding water, fishing rights, oyster bed management and such. Completely unreasonable catch limits are being imposed on fishermen, too. There’s nothing like a building full of bureaucrats who don’t know a flounder from a frog to figure out how you ought to fish. Sigh.

    It is good to hear that the deer seem to be appreciating their new superhighway, though!

    • Lynda says:

      Linda, you have no idea how ecstatic I was to see all those hoof marks in the mud! As for the powers that be, well, it is what it is.

      On the flipside, California got itself into the fire-catastrophe it is in for exactly the opposite bureaucratic reasoning. They never let a fire burn, they never wanted to allow cutting, and now the trees are so thick that they completely combust in a fire and the fires are hard to control. In the old days when nature handled herself accordingly, you could ride horseback at full speed through the forest there. If there was a fire it raced through at ground level and left the trees scorched but alive. Sigh…

  8. pattisj says:

    Sorry to see what they’ve done, I’m sure it was a shock to see it this way. I hope come spring, you will have some lovely surprises surrounding you.

    • Lynda says:

      Me too, Patti. Though I will need to walk the area looking for invasive, non-native growth to yank before it gains a foothold. I am sort of hoping that the plants and vines are still sleeping under the soil and waiting for spring. 😀

  9. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Concerning the spraying of chemicals… Be sure to check on your rights as a beekeeper to be excluded from this practice!
    Are they not responsible for cleaning up/repairing any damage incurred to your property while they were on their right-of-way?
    Also check for tree harvesters who use horses to avoid more of this type of catastrophe.
    My condolences for your loss):

    • Lynda says:

      Deb, already on it; not really (I was told this looks pretty good by comparison); and horses? Ahhhhhahahahahahaaa! Bigger, better, more steel, that’s the way they do it here. Sigh.

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