Brian Scott, Denton County Reporter
Atmos Energy's plan to do with away with a 12-mile stretch of trees, young and old, is not sitting well with residents in Flower Mound.
Thousands of trees will likely be cut down along a more than 12-mile stretch of road in Flower Mound as Atmos Energy works to clear the easement along a gas pipeline.
Leaders at Atmos Energy hope a compromise will help ease the loss of thousands of trees in Flower Mound.
In an attempt to get the area around a gas pipeline up to safety standards Atmos Energy says they have to remove the trees that fall in their easement throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In Flower Mound that means a 50-foot-wide zone running for more than 12 miles.
"We're offering actually a really good proposal. We're not going to clear all 50 feet, we're proposing to clear only 40 feet and allow some trees to even remain and kind of canopy over into 30 feet,” said Atmos spokesperson Jennifer Ryan.
Many Flower Mound residents aren’t satisfied with the loss of the trees, some more than 100 years old.
"This whole neighborhood bought the land because of the trees,” said Vernon Olson who lives on Doubletree Trail.
Olson says the neighborhood has long been known for its trees and the founder of their HOA even carefully moved several trees in the area to protect them.
"Here we are now going to lose them all. That's really a wild deal,” said Olson.
Folks in the neighborhood estimate the trees add as much as $50,000 to their property value, but they say the loss of summer shade in their homes and along a popular walking trail will be a bigger loss.
"We're sick about it,” said Barbie Olson. "This driveway was built to save these trees, those trees; the yard was built around the trees.”
Atmos says they don’t have a lot of choice in the matter though.
"Safety, their safety is our number one concern and we have got to be able to get in there in the event of an emergency and protect our pipe,” said Ryan.
Ryan adds that Atmos needs plenty of room to get large machinery in to fix problems and emergency situations on the line. If the trees are in the way, Atmos said they would have to spend valuable time removing them – which the company won’t likely have to spare.
The company adds that the roots from existing trees can grow around the pipeline and choke it causing other issues.
Even though the line is about 60 years old, Atmos only became involved with it in the late 2000s. Ryan doesn’t know why it wasn’t cleared before, but she says now that it is in their care state and federal laws require them to maintain the easement properly.
"In the last 8 years ATMOS Energy actually acquired this pipeline and since then we've been doing a cyclical basis of attacking our right-of-way issues, and now it's Flower Mound's turn," Ryan said.
She also adds the area will be cleaned up once the trees are gone and converted into a sort of grassy knoll so as not to be an eyesore.
In the past Flower Mound leaders have spoken out against the plan as well asking Atmos to reconsider. Texas Senator Jane Nelson even spoke up last October when word of the issue reached her.
Nelson released a statement that said:
"Every tree that can be saved, should be saved. While I understand Atmos believes they have the authority to do this, I would ask that they work with the Town of Flower Mound to ensure the public safety in a way that prevents the unnecessary destruction of trees."
At that time Atmos held off on plans to work with Flower Mound and prevent as much loss as possible.
Representatives from the company will again join the Town Council and citizens of Flower Mound on Thursday night for a special 6 p.m. work session at Town Hall.
Atmos hopes to update council on the plans and help residents better understand what will be done and why it has to happen.
Olson and several residents in his neighborhood will bring their arguments to Thurday's meeting and try to convince Atmos to take a different approach.
"Just look and not just dismiss us,” said Barbie Olson. "We want to work with them. We've been a good neighbor and want them to be a good neighbor back.”
Ryan says clearing these easements has been a continuous issue on pipelines throughout the 9 state area they serve.