Downed utility poles could be given to farmers, ranchers

Tuesday, February 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The thousands of utility poles brought down by last month's ice storm could be put to use by farmers and ranchers.

Utility poles are treated with preservatives to extend their lives so burning them is prohibited under state and federal laws. Broken utility poles must be recycled or buried in a hazardous waste landfill.

``Those are about the only options,'' said Kevin Caughman, environmental specialist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Utility companies say they may make the poles available to farmers and ranchers for use as fence posts.

Sid Sperry, spokesman for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, said about 20,000 downed poles are reported among its 14 affected members.

The 40-foot utility poles weigh between 1,250 and 1,800 pounds, making it difficult to haul them around, Sperry said.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., the state's largest utility company, has about 7,000 downed poles, said Tim Hartley, company spokesman. Hartley said OG&E already is considering offers from people who want to buy the broken poles.

The Jan. 30 storm coated much of the state in ice, causing many utility poles to split or uproot.

Sperry said his members likely will try to recycle the damaged poles for their own use first before making them available to the public.

Anyone taking a utility pole must sign a release agreeing not to burn the wood, he said.

The poles also cannot be chipped and used for mulching or bedding, he said.

Temporary storage sites will be established for the downed poles, but those sites first must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Quality and several other agencies, he said.