North San Antonio neighbors question who is responsible for trimming trees near power lines

Iced over trees cause for many outages during winter storm, CPS says

Residents who live in Elm Creek want to know who is responsible for maintaining some trees outside of their neighborhood.

SAN ANTONIO – Almost 24 hours after the cold snap moved through San Antonio, more than 200 CPS Energy customers were still dealing with outages Friday morning.

In an email sent to customers Friday afternoon, CPS Energy attributed some outages to trees on power lines.

Linda Lowman’s mother, 98-year-old Dorothy Hughes, was without electricity and answers for nearly 24 hours.

“It’s ridiculous that my mother had to spend 21 hours without electricity, and it wasn’t just mother,” Lowman said. “I think there were over 200 people in this area (affected).”

CPS Energy’s predictions of ice on trees causing major outages during the winter storm came true for customers in areas including Universal City, Luckey Ranch and Hughes’ neighborhood of Elm Creek in North San Antonio.

“I felt like, really, we were let down,” Lowman said. “I mean, (city leaders) got on TV and said there would be no problems. And there were problems, maybe not with the grid, but there were problems.”

The power lines that supply electricity to Elm Creek are along Orsinger Lane outside the neighborhood. Hughes and other neighbors want to know who is responsible for maintaining these trees.

According to Public Works, when a tree is in the right of way, residents must submit a report through 311, and city crews will respond.

In a statement to KSAT, CPS Energy said in part, “Customers are responsible for the service line (the electric line from the utility pole to their home).”

However, in Elm Creek’s case, the trees along Orsinger Lane lean against power poles and wires.

“All those trees, overhang Orsinger Lane, and (CPS Energy) couldn’t get a bucket truck down Orsinger,” said Daniel Zentner, president of Elm Creek Home Owners Association. “But those (trees) are not Elm Creek’s property, you know? We don’t trim trees over city property, right?”

Although power has since been restored, Zentner said they still don’t have a clear answer on who owns or trims the trees in question.

Full statement from CPS regarding trimming trees:

“CPS Energy has a tree trimming program that addresses vegetation that interferes with our power lines. You can find more information on it at Tree Trimming - Power Line Safety. Customers are responsible for the service line (the electric line from the utility pole to their home). However, it is critical they consider hiring a contractor so only qualified professionals are trimming trees around electric lines. We request that the customer call us at least 5 business days before the work is to begin so that we can temporarily remove the service line to allow safe trimming of the tree. Customers can call us at 210-353-2222.

As part of our recently approved rate request, infrastructure projects that improve reliability and resiliency were included.”


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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.