CROSS ROADS — It's a little slice of the country that is no more, and neighbors aren't happy.
Piles of wood chips are all that's left of a lush line of trees at the intersection of Highway 380 and Fishtrap Road in the Denton County Town of Cross Roads.
"I've got a lump in my throat the size of Texas. They’re not going to come back. They’re gone forever,” said Janet Bird. “Going down this road is just going to make me sick to my stomach."
The work cleared trees and roots that surround an underground natural gas line belonging to Atmos Energy. The company is protected by law with easements, giving it the freedom to cut down 50-foot swaths... so it did.
But that brings the sound of highway traffic closer to home.
“I can hear it from my house, but probably not as much as I’m going to now that these trees are cut down,” Bird said.
For that reason, neighbors came to Monday night’s meeting of the Town Council.
It was clear that Mayor Steve Smith understood the frustration, but his hands are tied.
So instead, what he heard was a request: Talk to Atmos and see if they’ll plant something else where the trees used to be.
“My argument is, they have a moral obligation then to replace some of these trees that they’re cutting down,” said Peter Carrothers, who also lives nearby.
If the utility says "no," maybe the town will consider landscaping the now-barren right-of-way.
Either way, neighbors say it’s worth a shot to save land they’ve come to love.
Atmos Energy representatives have met with the Town of Crossroad representatives on two occasions to discuss tree clearing and the pipeline replacement project in Crossroads. The most recent meeting was held on Monday, January 13, 2014. The clearing project is being conducted in conjunction with a pipeline replacement project for the segment of line that is in the Town of Crossroads. Over time, tree growth inhibits Atmos’ ability to access the pipeline quickly in the event of an emergency, provide right-of-way surveillance and perform routine maintenance in accordance with required federal/state inspections. In order to perform these critical activities, pipeline maintenance personnel must be able to easily and safely access the pipeline right-of-way, as well as areas on either side of the pipeline. Keeping trees, shrubs, buildings, fences, and other structures and encroachments well away from the pipelines promotes maintenance of pipeline integrity and safety. In addition, the root systems of many trees and large shrubs can grow against or around pipelines damaging the coating and even denting the pipeline. That type of underground damage can result in leaks and potential harm to the public. To avoid such damage, Atmos needs to remove trees from the right-of-way.