MLGW returns land to nature

Electric transmission lines crisscross Memphis and Shelby County, many of which sit above grassy right of way areas that must be maintained.

But what if instead of mowing these fields of green throughout the growing season it is instead reverted back to the natural habitat that existed before the lines came through?

A stretch of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division lines pass through John F. Kennedy Park adjacent to the Wolf River in northeast Memphis. Sitting near what will become part of the Wolf River Greenway that will run 22 miles through the city of Memphis, the right of way on both sides of the lines will be replanted with native species of grasses and wildflowers.

Grass removal begins later this month, in conjunction with a Sept. 25 kick off of work in the park. Planting will begin next growing season with a natural habitat takeover expected by the summer of 2017.

Ryan Hall, Land Protection Associate at the Wolf River Conservancy, approached Bill Bullock, Manager of Commercial and Industrial Customer Care at MLGW, with the idea.

“If the land has to be open you should make it produce as much as it can for your wildlife and wetlands,” Hall said. “There is so much opportunity in power line right of ways and sewer line right of ways. It’s essentially land that can be made better for wildlife.”

MLGW must maintain the right of way areas to keep trees and other hazards from obstructing lines.

Bullock said he is hopeful this pilot program of sorts will be successful and serve as the blueprint for future attempts. There could be a long-term economic savings in that less cost will be required to maintain the right of way. And in Memphis, where the drinking water is pumped out of the underground aquifer, Bullock said protecting the river has a long-term benefit for the utility.

“Having good cover of wildlife will help filter whatever runoff from the land into the Wolf River in the park,” he said.

Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler. 
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