Some tree trimmings from energy restoration efforts throughout Winter Storm Uri are nonetheless on the bottom practically two months after the storm, creating a possible wildfire hazard as wildfire season approaches.
Although trimmings in residential areas have been largely picked up, trimmings beneath Austin Power transmission strains in undeveloped areas haven’t.
“No one appears to know who’s accountable for clearing it,” Council Member Alison Alter instructed the Power Oversight Committee on March 31.
Alter instructed the Austin Monitor that the particles is only one piece of the vegetation administration puzzle – which itself is one technique to arrange the town for wildfires.
Alter’s constituents recognized tree trimmings left beneath transmission strains close to Spicewood Springs Highway, amongst different areas. The extent of the issue, nonetheless, stays unclear.
“We’re first making an attempt to get a way of the magnitude of the issue, after which see how we are able to deal with it,” she mentioned.
In regular circumstances, the utility’s contractors clear the comb. However doing so with snow, ice and frigid temperatures would have been too harmful.
Austin Power Normal Supervisor Jackie Sargent instructed the committee that restoring energy is the highest precedence throughout storm occasions. “It’s usually not an business follow … for the utilities to select up the vegetation that’s trimmed to have the ability to restore energy,” Sargent mentioned.
A number of metropolis departments, in addition to householders and landlords, share duty for clearing the large mass of lifeless vegetation and fallen bushes from February’s ice and file chilly. “We all know that when you go away particles on the bottom, it may be a powder keg for wildfire,” Alter mentioned.
At present, Council is about to approve a $7 million, two-year contract to assist clear vegetation beneath Austin Power transmission strains and different areas. The contract could later be prolonged three extra years, for a complete of $17.5 million.
“We’re gonna have to judge whether or not that’s sufficient,” Alter mentioned, “or whether or not that utilization must be accelerated.” The work round electrical strains, she famous, is “very specialised.”
How properly the town manages all of the lifeless vegetation will, partially, decide how ready Austin is for wildfires come summer time and fall. According to a 2019 report, Austin is the fifth most at-risk metropolis for wildfires within the nation – and probably the most at-risk exterior of California.
“I’m actually involved about 2021 trying loads like 2011,” Alter mentioned. In 2011, a harsh winter adopted by a scorching summer time and file drought brought on the worst wildfire season in Austin’s historical past. “It’s actually a matter of when, not if,” she mentioned.
The town this yr adopted a Wildland-Urban Interface Code that outlines building and renovation requirements in fire-prone areas.
Regardless of this progress, Alter mentioned, “we’re not the place I’d like us to be but.” She plans to convey new wildfire security initiatives as a part of this yr’s funds course of.
Alter suggested residents to name 311 and attain out to their Council member in the event that they see any brush that wants clearing. “I might name multiple workplace in the meanwhile, as a result of a part of what we’re making an attempt to do is absolutely determine the place this particles is.”
The Austin Monitor’s work is made doable by donations from the group. Although our reporting covers donors every now and then, we’re cautious to maintain enterprise and editorial efforts separate whereas sustaining transparency. A whole record of donors is out there here, and our code of ethics is defined here.