Dead Trees Stir Bay St. Louis Community

Dead trees, whether cut down or barely standing, are causing major concerns in a Bay St. Louis neighborhood. Katrina devastated Garden Isle. Now residents say as they rebuild they're living under another threat, dead trees that could crush their recovery efforts.

Grass has grown up around the stumps from seven months ago when Sandy Carriere says Coast Electric cut dead trees along the roads in Garden Isle. When the crews left, the downed trees stayed.

"It's a flood hazard," said Carriere. "If we get water back in here, the homes that are around here that have been renovated are going to be destroyed again. And it's because of people that left things undone."

Coast Electric officials say crews routinely cut trees in the right-of-way to protect power lines and they say it's company policy to leave trees at the site.

"That's the problem now is that there are so many dead trees from Katrina. There are thousands within our service territory and we wanted to go ahead and get the trees cut," Coast Electric spokesperson April Lollar said.

"Part of the reason we don't remove the trees is that we cover such a large area. We cover 90 percent of the land mass in Harrison, Hancock and Pearl River Counties. And removing those trees, the cost of removing those trees, would be very high and we want to keep costs down for our members."

On Hancock County's private property, dead tree removal is overseen by the engineering firm Neel-Schaffer. Officials say crews have cut down and hauled off 15,100 trees and another 1,800 are on the waiting list.

"This tree right here behind me could fall on that car coming down that the street right now and the power lines too," said resident Wade Hick Sr. "I know it's a right-of-entry. It's on private property, but it needs to be taken care of."

Government contracted crews cannot take down trees on private property unless the owner has signed a right-of-entry form. No one has a count of how many trees fall in that category. That worries Sandy Carriere who says some neighbors have abandoned their properties.

Carriere said, "The people are sick of it. We're spending thousands of dollars trying to renovate these properties and keep our own properties safe and clean again. We have to go through this, and it's not fair."

Neel-Schaffer says residents should encourage neighbors who haven't signed right of entry forms to cut dead trees, to do so.

Coast Electric officials say the company is about to embark on a project with FEMA to cut dead trees on private property where the owner has given permission.