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Xcel Energy to remove hundreds of trees from metro Denver neighborhoods

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DENVER -- In a matter of weeks, Xcel Energy will remove a few hundred trees from several metro Denver neighborhoods, and they say the cuts are non-negotiable.

After years of working with homeowners to trim trees beneath an eight mile stretch of high voltage lines, Xcel is working with a contractor to remove any trees that could pose a threat, even if they are not yet fully grown.

“It doesn’t even have to necessarily be within 10-15 feet of (the lines) to be a problem,” said Xcel spokesperson Mark Stutz. “The only real solution, in our minds, is that these trees have to be taken out because they really shouldn’t have ever been put their in the first place.”

But the shift in approach isn’t sitting well with homeowners, who are being left with stumps in their yards.

“It’s frustrating,” said homeowner Betsy Gehres. “I’m not happy about it at all.”

Gehres says the contractors who visited her didn’t just cut her trees. They also cut the tops off some of her shrubs and completely removed some bushes, which she thought were in compliance.

“Okay, I won’t plant a Maple Tree back here but I would like to plant some shrubs without having them come along and taking them out,” Gehres said. “Literally, this smoke bush was (five feet) high.”

Denver City Forester, Rob Davis, said there isn’t much that can be done about the tree removals because Xcel owns the right of way beneath their lines and they are required by the federal government to keep them clear of hazards.

Even some trees on city land are slated to be cleared. Despite the efforts of the High Line Villas homeowners association, a group of trees along South Quebec St. will soon be removed.

“There’s not a lot of option for preserving the shade trees based on the plan that Xcel has in place,” Davis said. “Can we talk about maybe some shrubs, just to put a little bit of that green space back along Quebec?”

For homeowners like Betsy Gehres, who believe they had plants improperly removed from their yard, they can call Xcel to file a complaint at 1-800-895-4999.