Evolving Services for Changing NeedsIndustry
By Dave Kelley, Lead CUF
March 3, 2014 seems like such a long time ago. Seated in a hotel conference room were eight aspiring CUFs, wondering exactly how a North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) foot patrol worked, and the difference between a water oak and a willow oak! After a few days of training, we were off and running. We paired up with partners, many of whom that would become lifelong friends after staying in hotel after hotel, hiking through ravines and swamps, and finding some of the best hole-in-the-wall spots for grub.
After completion of our second inspection in September 2015 for our client, The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), entrusted us with a new challenge. As a government agency, TVA is tasked with upholding The Endangered Species Act to the highest degree. This includes the protection of the endangered Indiana Bat that can be found throughout the TVA coverage area. TVA biologists trained our CUFs in the detection of bat habitat along rights-of-ways so as to not disturb trees with exfoliating bark and cavities that may be home to endangered bats and their pups. Once trees that were in need of removal were identified as having suitable habitat, they were inventoried and scheduled for removal during the winter after the bats had retreated to their winter hibernacula.
January of 2016 brought about more changes. TVA decided to double the size of our group by adding QA/QC personnel to assist with safety audits and vegetation audits. Additional Foresters were also added to assist with ROW capital projects such as writing up crop damage assessments, finding ROW access for heavy equipment, notifying property owners of projects, and using transits to set stakes for the construction of towers. It seemed as though we are evolving from being CUFs into ROW Stewards.
Reflecting on where we were on this contract to where we are now, it seems so unimaginable, but the adventures and experiences I’ve had with some of the brightest colleagues, backs it all up. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!