A Bayfield family has settled for an undisclosed amount for damages after an allegedly unmaintained wire owned by Tri-State Generation and Transmission caused injuries to three horses, resulting in one of them having to be euthanized.
“I predicted this was going to happen,” said Hal Koening, who lives on County Road 506 near Bayfield.
Koening and his wife, Deb, purchased their 42-acre ranch in 1980. At the time, Koening said a Tri-State power line ran through the property, but the company did not have an official right of way.
Around 2008, as BP America Production Co. was looking to upgrade its wells in the area, Tri-State purchased the right of way, Koening said. The family and Tri-State had a strained relationship, he said.
“That sort of set the stage and got us off on the wrong foot with those guys,” Koening said. “We’ve never been able to get the relationship repaired.”
In the end, Tri-State paid the Koenings for the right of way, though less than the original agreement, he said.
At one point, he emphasized Tri-State should move a structure about 100 feet so his horses would not come into contact with the company’s infrastructure.
Ultimately, Koening said Tri-State did not want to spend the money for the project. Years went by, he said, and he failed to notice that Tri-State was not maintaining its equipment.
Then, around daybreak on Nov. 11, Koening looked out the window and noticed three of his horses were injured. On further investigation, the Koenings found evidence the horses were injured by an unmaintained and exposed guy wire, which are used to stabilize free-standing structures, such as poles.
Koening said he can’t be exactly sure what happened, but he suspects the horses were spooked in the middle of the night, which caused them to run and not see the wires in the dark.
A 5-year-old gray horse the Koenings raised had a severed chest muscle, which stripped off the bone. The animal’s knee was also injured. Ultimately, the horse had to be put down.
“It ripped up everything in his knee,” Koening said. “He was crying like a little baby that’s how painful it was. I’m 67, and my intent was he was going to be my last horse.”
A second horse didn’t suffer as bad of injuries, but did have an injured leg. It took two months for the horse to recover, Koening said. A third horse also had its knee injured, but Koening is unsure if the animal will ever fully recover.
Koening said he sent a letter to Tri-State about the incident but had issues coming in contact with company representatives. He sent a new letter last week and was able to meet with Tri-State employees.
Koening said he was able to come to a settlement for the injuries to his horses and costs of a veterinarian, but said he was unable to disclose the amount. He also said the company sent out staff members to make repairs to the infrastructure.
Koening said a Tri-State staff member told him the company wants to repair the relationship.
“Based on my past experience, I didn’t expect it would be this easy,” he said.
Mark Stutz, a Tri-State spokesman, said the company wants to be a good neighbor to landowners who have Tri-State infrastructure on their property.
“We always try to do the right thing in situations like this and make sure we’re good neighbors to whose property our equipment crosses,” he said.
Koening said he was told the company is also using drone technology to fly over its lines to check for issues or damage to infrastructure.
“It sounds like they’re going to take it a lot more seriously,” he said.