Now, you can put a price on protecting trees in the city of Beaufort.
And for 47 significant specimens in three small neighborhoods, that price is more than $1 million.
It's $1,079,870 to be exact, according to a city Tree Board study on placing electric and communications wires underground.
"It's so black-and-white, and the information is all there," Tree Board member Derrick Wells said.
The findings go to the City Council, and board members will continue to explore ways to protect trees by burying wires.
Electrical company SCE&G has to trim trees near wires for safety and to ensure service isn't interrupted by downed limbs; some residents were incensed in spring 2010 by what they considered excessive pruning.
Asked a year ago to identify areas where lines could be buried to protect trees, the board zeroed in places with "single-phase" lines, which carry less power and are simpler and less expensive to bury then double- or triple-phase lines. The board also excluded areas where lines could not be connected into a loop around the homes and trees. The board also only considered areas where lines could be connected in an underground "loop" around homes and trees, instead of coming to dead ends.
Trees also were counted and examined for healthiness. Live oaks, red oaks, magnolias and red cedars with trunks larger than 20 inches in diameter were considered particularly worth protecting.
Areas are ranked according to the estimated cost of placing wires underground divided by the number of significant trees in each area.
In order, The Point, Pigeon Point and Mossy Oaks had the lowest cost-to-tree ratios.
Costs are preliminary estimates based upon data SCE&G, Charter Communications, Hargray Communications and CenturyLink provided for The Point. The Tree Board broke down each company's cost per foot and applied it to the other areas, according to the report. However, Chris McCorkendale, vice president of operations and engineering at Hargray Communications, previously said costs can vary significantly from one area to the next.
Who would pay for the projects is unclear. Tree Board chairwoman Barb Farrior said the board will continue to research funding opportunities. City manager Scott Dadson said Beaufort has about half a million dollars from franchise agreements with the cable companies that could be used.
The City Council is considering an ordinance that would require all communications companies bury their wires when SCE&G does or risk losing their franchise. The measure passed on first reading last week; a second reading has not been scheduled.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.