Linda Horton, who owns 15 acres along Rockhouse Road, has lived at her property for a year. Carroll Electric has a ROW that runs parallel to the county road but is behind a buffer of trees and low vegetation that runs along the roadway. Most of Horton's acreage runs parallel to the road.
"What they're wanting is to let them cut along the front of the road," she said. "It will allow them to get to the lines easier if there is a problem."
But she is not happy with that plan, especially after Carroll Electric sprayed herbicides on the trees along the ROW without her knowledge. She is concerned that cutting the trees all along the road will create runoff of herbicides into area creeks that may feed people's drinking water wells.
"I don't want my neighbors to suffer," she said, adding that she tries to be environmentally conscious.
But more than that, she said, the manner in which Carroll Electric is going about their ROW maintenance can hurt the beauty and peace of the area, as well as tourism.
"I bought this place for the land," she said. "I lived (in Texas) surrounded by refineries most of my life. I searched for 10 years, and my criteria was I wanted to live someplace pretty. This was it."
Cutting the trees would be a detriment to that, she said.
"It would ruin the look of my land. Those few trees give me a break from the noise and a little protection."
She said one of the things she enjoys most about Eureka Springs is all the car show events, and that County Roads 309, 306 and Rockhouse Road drive are on all their routes.
"They love driving this road, and part of the love of it is they have a canopy of trees over it," Horton said. "If we lose that canopy...."
She said Carroll Electric had been unresponsive to her.
"I called them numerous times, and they always put me on voicemail and no one ever returned my calls. I finally went in and talked to someone and that's when I found out we do have some rights."
Her boyfriend, Leo Speicheinger, said he thinks someone should do a study on the importance of pretty drives like Rockhouse Road to Eureka Springs tourism.
"This road is so popular with all the car clubs," he said. "They come here and go around to Berryville and back up Highway 221."
Speicheinger said he spoke with a sheriff's deputy a couple weeks ago and told him he would be willing to go to jail if it meant keeping Carroll Electric from cutting the trees along the roadway.
He confronted workers late last week, he said, who were clearing the ROW. The exchange ended up with the tree service foreman calling a sheriff's deputy, who told Specheinger he would go to jail if he interfered in any way with the workers doing their job.
"They have a 30-foot right-of-way and are doing whatever they want to do," Speicheinger said he told the deputy. "They are going outside the 30-foot right-of-way."
The deputy told him it's a civil matter, not a criminal one, and he should get a lawyer and take care of it.
"But what's the point, after it's already a done deal?" Speicheinger said.
As it turned out, Carroll Electric did not cut down the trees along Horton's roadway frontage, said Scott Woodward, a grounds engineer with the cooperative.
While the cooperative is putting in a new three-phase line, the clearing on her land was routine maintenance and not part of that.
"There is no plan to take trees along her roadway, not in the near future," he said. "We're stopping construction of the three-phase line before her house. We were just doing maintenance clearing along the right-of-way."
He said he could make no guarantees about the distant future, however.
The route for the single- to three-phase line project starts at Rocky Top Road (CR 309), goes along CR 329 and then connects into Rockhouse Road, he said. The total project is 4.78 miles.
Cooperative spokewoman Nancy Plagge said, "It's a system improvement to bring more reliable service and capacity to the area. The area has grown to the point where we need a three-phase line. It will be better for the folks in that area."
As far as routine maintenance, Carroll Electric's vegetation management program document, found on its website, www.carrollecc.com, states the overhead single- and three-phase line ROW in a rural area is "30 feet on each side of the center line, totaling 60 feet, or to previous cut line whichever is greater, plus any tree beyond 30 feet from the center line that CECC deems a danger to public safety, to employee safety, or to the overall integrity of the line."
But that's not always the case in actuality, said Plagge. It depends on the individual situation.
"Distribution lines depend on the topography. It's to the extent necessary," she said. She said the contractor goes ahead of the clearing crews one to two weeks in advance and contacts landowners, and "there is some wiggle room on negotiating certain trees."
Horton's neighbor, Wayne Schumacher, said a Carroll Electric official told him the cooperative wants to abandon some of its current ROWs "so they don't have to go through pastures and take their trucks off pavement."
Plagge said that is likely.
"We're moving the lines out to the road where we have easier access to them," she said. "It makes better sense to us to keep our equipment out on the road rather than having to go through a property owner's land."
Woodward said most of the time it works out better if a ROW can be along a roadway. It makes the lines more accessible if there is a problem, trucks don't have to cut through a landowner's property, the time it takes to make a repair is substantially reduced, and the environmental impact is reduced.
But a line along the roadway is not always optimal, he added.
"Sometimes it's worse. Let's say you have a house right next to the road and a minimal amount of buffer between the house and the line. There might not be enough room to put poles there. There are so many different circumstances, and people have the right, to some extent, to have it how they want it to look."
Schumacher wasn't happy with Carroll Electric wanting a new ROW on his land, however.
"On my property they have an existing right-of-way that probably takes an acre and a half on my property, and they've cut trees for 60 years, and now they're saying, 'We want to cut another acre and a half.'"
He said he had met with someone from Carroll Electric who gave him verbal assurance they would alter their plan and use the existing ROW.
"Otherwise, they would cut 200 trees."
Schumacher said his issue with Carroll Electric over the new ROW is about "abandoning a ROW they've had for 60 years after they cut all the trees down and then want to give it back to you."
And they won't restore it to its original condition, he was told.
Woodward said that is true.
"We don't plant new trees. We give the owner the ROW back so we no longer cut that, so it will grow of itself."
He said an owner can refuse a new easement.
Plagge added a landowner might negotiate replacement of trees in an easement agreement for a new ROW, however.
"That would be developed on an individual basis."
But even if trees are replanted or vegetation grows back, many current landowners won't see the benefit, Horton said.
"If they cut down trees, you're not going to see them come back in your lifetime."