A woodpile is all that’s left of about 15 filbert trees removed from a Bonneville Power Administration easement, to the chagrin of the property owner. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In their 52 years living on Bolf Terrace, Ed and Josephine Bolf have seen Keizer go through a lot of changes, but a recent one arrived in their backyard and they aren’t happy with it.

Two years ago, crews from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) acted on a 70-year-old easement taking out eight trees and topping two others to provide clearer access to power lines that run over the property. In place of the trees, BPA left the beginnings of a gravel roadway. Last week, they returned to finish the job taking out another fifteen trees and leaving the Bolfs with several piles of wood.

“If we couldn’t have the trees, we wanted the wood,” Ed Bolf said. “The bigger problem is the roadway, there’s nothing in the easement about a roadway.”

Taken at face value, the gravel road that replaced the small orchard, is somewhat perplexing. Bolf was told that BPA needed clear access to the tower located just west of his property, but that tower is actually in Claggett Creek Cemetery, west of Bolf’s property, and Bolf’s two acres would not have impeded access. The road that’s been built is only accessible through the cemetery and dead-ends at another tower east of Bolf’s property, which is adjacent to a driveway to a condo development that would seemingly have provided access.

Bolf said he was told that BPA officials wanted to ensure access because of the potential of terrorist attacks. Doug Johnson, a BPA spokesperson, said the decision to take out the trees and install a road there was part of a larger sea change in handling vegetation obstructions like the orchard.

“We thought what we would do, in order to clearly identify the path, would be to put the gravel in and make sure everything was clear,” Johnson said.

After major outages throughout the country that were attributed to nuisance vegetation, the North American Electric Reliability Corp., a national regulatory body that oversees reliability of the U.S. power grids issued new, more stringent vegetation management standards for electric transmission lines. Rather than face increased fines for non-compliance, BPA takes the extra step of removing the trees rather than simply topping them, Johnson said.

“We can’t afford for anything to go out unexpectedly,” Johnson said. “If we do experience a weather-related outage, we’ve got to be certain that we have access as quickly as possible.

Johnson said efforts were made to secure access as newer developments cropped up around the Bolf property, but no agreements could be reached.

The Bolf’s bought the property in 1956, and the 100-foot easement had been granted by the previous owners in November 1940 for a price of $1,000.

The easement is not so much the issue for Bolf, it’s the road that rankles him. He equates it to theft.

“The road effectively steals the property from me. I still pay taxes on it, but I can’t use it for a dang thing,” Bolf said.

He has enlisted a lawyer to look into the legality of the road.

While issues of property and money are certainly part of the issue for Bolf, there is emotional attachment to the now-fallen orchard that once occupied his property and part of his life.

“It was work, filberts mostly, I’d get down on my hands and knees to pick them up and we’d process them by hand,” Bolf said. “What we didn’t give away, we ended up selling. The sales generally were enough to cover the costs of keeping the trees healthy and the income was used to provide some of the things we wouldn’t have been able to provide otherwise because I wasn’t making that much money.”