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Video: Land owner loses trees to pipeline company

ALGER, Wash. - Sarah Spence's sanctuary is 40 acres of woods and trails she owns in the tiny Skagit County town of Alger.

"This area used to remind me of an English woods, now it looks like a power transmission corridor," she said.

The problem is an oil pipeline runs right through the property.

"I reckon if it were their back yard they might have a different perspective," she said.

Olympic Pipeline has a 25-foot easement on Spence's land, so inspectors can keep an eye on the line.

But over the past year, Spence says, the company has cut back an additional 24,000 square feet of her land - hundreds of trees.

"I remember how they looked - they were so beautiful," she said. "It's so sad. It's just so sad."

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time Spence has battled Olympic Pipeline. About a decade ago they cut down a bunch of her trees and were ordered to replant. Now they've come in and cut most of them down once again.

"And it was just, just starting to heal," said Spence.

Spence is now suing Olympic, demanding that they compensate her for the trees and hoping to set a precedent for landowners all along the 400-mile line.

"I think they've done this repeatedly, and I think they will continue to do it until there are some regulations in place to rein them in a little bit," she said.

A spokesman for the company says the fact a mistake could happen "two times on the same property is extremely concerning" and that Olympic Pipeline "apologizes and is working to come to a resolution."

But for Spence the damage is already done.

"'We're terribly sorry. We're terribly sorry.' Well, that doesn't grow trees,'" she said.

She is working to establish a "landowners bill of rights" for people living along pipelines. Contact her at

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