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Letter: Utility right of way: When is it too much to clear?

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Beltrami Electric Co-op in the process of "maintaining" their electric line "right-of-way" is showing little or no respect for the landowner and landowner's land which the electric lines cross. This past December, a BEC rep visited us and advised that they would be clearing the right-of-way across our property and advised we should have received a notice with our monthly electric bill. We had not received this notice, although notice was included in their November newsletter. We were also advised that they would be clearing everything within 30 feet on either side of the electric line even though the easement makes no reference to width.

The clearing process was conducted in steps. First the big logging equipment came in and took down the trees. Then bush hogs with heavy rotary mowers came in and mowed everything down, even the small spruce that in no way would impact the line and were agreed to be left for Christmas trees and replanting to other sites. Then the BEC crew came in to "clean up" the mess and destroyed anything that was inadvertently left. The next and final step will be the "agent orange" application (BEC says that it is an environmentally friendly herbicide -- an oxymoron) to prevent woody vegetative growth. Just think, we now have our own DMZ right here in Beltrami County. In fact BEC will be applying this procedure to their overhead lines totaling about 1,200 miles (9,000 acres).

We have heard horror stories from others that have experienced this rape of property in the past and had our go with it this past winter. Any BEC member who has not experienced this treatment will soon as BEC plans to clear all their right of ways. This is a clear-cut 60-foot swath devoid of any woody-type vegetation. This is not done in town nor necessarily along highways or in other co-op areas.

Another slap in the face is going into the BEC Web site and seeing "Member-owned, democratically controlled ... the cooperative way."

With elections for three BEC board members coming up soon, we can make a difference by voting in someone who will share our concerns.

Jerry Maertens

Bemidji

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