CL&P: Trim We Must

Down here in our little corner of Connecticut, we don’t always pay attention to Hartford. But decisions in the state capital can have big effects on us — for better or worse.

CL&P, at work.

CL&P, at work.

Earlier this month, Connecticut Light & Power participated in a public hearing in New Britain. The subject was tree trimming. It’s an important subject, following weather events like hurricanes and snowstorms that caused widespread power outages.

Under the utility company’s “Enhanced Tree Trimming” plan, it would trim or remove trees — including healthy ones — that could fall on their poles or wires. Trees on private property were included, within 8 feet of power lines.

Not many Fairfield County residents trekked up to New Britain. But plenty of citizens throughout the state spoke up. They were not pleased with CL&P’s plan.

Citing environmental and property rights concerns, the speakers vehemently opposed the CL&P plan (and a similar one proposed by United Illuminating).

Speakers (and those sending written comments) noted there was no commitment to plant lower-growing trees to replace healthy ones that had been cut down. Nor was there any plan to grind tree stumps, or remove potential tripping hazards.

Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority took note. On Tuesday, the agency asked CL&P to voluntarily curtail its “Enhanced” program, pending a final ruling.

PURA

“We need a timeout to balance competing needs,” said PURA chairman Arthur H. House.

“One — as established by law — is Connecticut’s demonstrated need for more aggressive tree trimming to secure the reliability of vital utility services. The 2nd need … is to avoid unnecessary eradication of trees and instead proceed with selective trimming.”

CL&P said it would “of course comply” with the request to cut back the tree cutting.

On Thursday, though, the utility told PURA it has 65 local tree crews, with 170 employees, currently trimming trees. CL&P is concerned that a suspension of the program may cause  contractors to leave the state, “adversely impacting the Company’s ability to respond to a major weather event.”

Late Friday, PURA allowed CL&P to continue its tree work.

In related news, this weekend marks the 4th anniversary of a windstorm that knocked out power to thousands of Westporters — some for over a week.

One of the many power lines brought down by trees during the March 2010 windstorm.

One of the many power lines brought down by trees during the March 2010 windstorm.

11 responses to “CL&P: Trim We Must

  1. That storm in March 4 years ago was a nightmare. Then we had the October snowstorm in 2011 followed the following year by Hurricane Sandy. It was at that point that I called for a town meeting and with the help of Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, we were able to have management from CL&P present at that meeting. My question to the CL&P management was specifically related to tree trimming. If the trees are falling on the power lines, why not cut them down? It was all about the trees. I knew then, and I know now, that if there is proper maintenance of trees, the problems of power outages that we all experienced 2 and 3 years ago will not pose nearly the problem that it has in the past. So far this year, thanks in great part to the tree trimming program of CL&P, we have had no problem here in Westport.

  2. Bobbie Herman

    Responsible trimming rather than all-out cutting should certainly alleviate the problem. I see no point in cutting down healthy trees willy-nilly, especially if they can be trimmed away from the power lines. Trees enhance the beauty of the community. The big problem most of us had was the slow response of CL&P to the power outages.

  3. Sal Gilbertie

    Good article highlighting an important issue! The irony with tree eradication is that trees provide immense cooling benefits which, in turn, diminishes the need for electricity. Power companies need to be selective, not paranoid, especially when it comes to old growth trees that truly enhance the environment as well as property values. Property owners, especially those on the opposite side of the street from wires, would do themselves, and the entire community, a world of good by planting and maintaining healthy trees on their properties.

  4. As I drive around North Ave and Route 57 and see the crews taking down the trees and branches that are intertwined with the power lines, I believe we are helping to avoid potential problems in the future. They are not buzzing every tree in the street. After the trees have been cut, there are still plenty remaining on the road, and many of these will spread out over time to fill in the gaps. This is in sharp contrast to areas (like my neighboring lots) where older homes are torn down and seemingly every tree on the property except for the outside perimeter are completely obliterated to make way for giant new homes.

  5. Bart Shuldman

    Let’s be honest, this post would get many more responses if a storm hit and we lost power for days if not a week. Very quickly the issues we faced just a year ago are just a memory and the issue still unresolved. We have too many branches and some really bad trees hanging on our power lines. One bad storm (and hope we avoid it for as long as Mother Nature allows it) our power will be lost for days.

    May I also ask what happened with the new cost, I am sorry, new position, Westport Tree Warden? Did all he do is take trees down and ruin Longshore? Sorry, this was a layup.

  6. Having carefully read the detailed – and sobering – report by the tree warden on the state of the diseased, structurally weak and salt poisoned trees which were recently removed from Longshore, I will refrain from commenting upon certain posts regarding the wisdom of same. However, I was generally under the impression that most Westporters knew that while our current tree warden, Bruce Lindsay, was new to the position, the position itself was was not actually new. A very decent man named Andy Puskas served in this role previously and before him it was a gentleman named Donald Snook. I have had dealings with all three of the above mentioned and found them to be responsive, caring and competent town employees.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Wow. 3 tree wardens and the same problems exist. Didn’t the new one say if we had been taking care of the trees at Longshore they would not have to cut them down. Too funny.

      And all the trees still sitting on the power lines. I think we all lost power for quite some time last year.

      Good tax money after bad?

  7. Why can’t we like most first worlds countries, Bury the power lines? I’d recommend if we had them in some sort of tube right behind guard rails.

    They are being super aggressive with the tree, many Beautiful big trees.

    What would be recommended to replace our native Maples and Oaks ?
    Just not going to look like CT anymore. Don’t turn into New Jersey.

  8. In this life problems always exist. Some can be solved, most simply have to be managed. If one starts with the premise that perfection or utopia is somehow possible, one is going to be disappointed. And, it would appear, bitter. Wide availability of the report on the Longshore trees notwithstanding, some may persist in thinking that those same trees magically possessed an unlimited lifespan. I imagine that this just one of the occupational hazards of being a tree warden.

    As a sidebar on burying power lines, most people turn white when educated about the real costs associated with even the most modest effort.

  9. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Very well said, Mr. Boyd. However, I fear you are speaking to many deaf, misinformed (and entitled) ears. Poor Westport.