06880

[OPINION] Tree Trimming Is Overly Aggressive, Environmentally Unsound

Annalise Ferrara moved to Weston 10 years ago from Brooklyn, where she practiced law. She’s enjoyed the town. But recently she and her neighbors — including Red Bee Honey — have noticed plenty of tree-trimming by Eversource. She writes:

Aggressive deforestation is occurring in Connecticut, particularly the historic Bradley Edge Tool Factory District of Weston.

Eversource has been removing essential carbon-eliminating and pollinator vegetation by the hundreds, in an effort to reduce the possibility of power outages.

Instead of trimming trees over the years, they suddenly cut them down, leaving an eyesore of tree stumps littering the properties of tax-paying citizens, and exposing electric towers that are devaluing neighborhoods.

One of my neighbors is a beekeeper and founder of woman-owned Red Bee Honey, a Connecticut state treasure. Her honeybees and the honey they produce are a valuable asset to all of us. Eversource has removed several trees next door, and is planning to remove even more from her property.

These trees are a source of food and medicine for her bees. This will compromise their ability to pollinate the environment, and her ability to run her business.

Connecticut General Statutes Section 16-234 had allowed a utility to remove hazardous trees — any tree or part thereof that is dead, extensively decayed or structurally weak which, if it fails, would endanger the utility’s infrastructure. The law also allowed the utility to prune or remove trees that pose a risk to the reliability of the utility’s infrastructure.

The issue here is who gets to decide whether the tree poses a risk? If it’s a healthy tree, why remove it? Why not just prune it? Eversource has decided it is easier to simply remove all the trees in its path and leave behind the stumps (which they are also allowed to grind down, if they see fit).

It used to be that Eversource could not do any work without first giving notice to the property owner that they had a right to consent, object or modify in writing the proposed pruning or removal. This notice had to include instructions on how to make the objection.

On July 1, 2013, the law changed. Now, Public Act No. 13-298 states that the notice only requires the utility to inform the property owner that they have 10 days in which to file an objection. I was unaware of this change. I wonder how many property owners were?

My neighbor on Lyons Plain Road has 18 tree stumps on her front lawn. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live in her house right now. She is a senior citizen and is in California. I don’t suppose Eversource knew that. How is it possible that all of those trees posed a risk to Eversource’s infrastructures?

Another neighbor’s property runs from Lyons Plain down River Road. The house was buried behind beautiful tall hickories but now sits completely exposed. Not one tree remains. Who knew there was a tall electric tower behind their house?

The transmission tower in Westonm, after cutting.,

I doubt all their trees posed a hazard. Wouldn’t it have been wiser and better for the environment to simply have pruned all these trees? Was there financial gain for someone in salvaging the wood, or in the contract for removing the trees? Something is wrong with this picture.

It is possible for Eversource to remedy some of what it has done? United Illuminated’s Vegetation Management Plan allows for stump grinding and replanting site-appropriate trees on a case-by-case basis. This might help my neighbor with the 18 stumps regain her lawn, the Red Bee Honey farm get some trees back, and the power tower to be hidden again.

If Eversource isn’t stopped our beautiful state will be beautiful no more, and our homes will lose their value. This deforestation must stop. Something must be done. I implore our legislators and governor to do something to curtail Eversource.

“06880” says: The issue is not so “cut” and dried. Apparently the need to obtain permission applied only to distribution circuits (35 kV and lower voltage typically found on the street — not transmission circuits (69 kV up to 345 kV). These are almost always located on rights of way, and permission was never required there.

The high-voltage tower has been in Weston for decades. The vegetation — not taken care of earlier — may have grown to threaten the lines supported by the towers.

Eversource now leaves notices on doors, informing residents that tree trimming is cutting. They also meet with first selectmen or their designees to discuss the coming year’s tree trimming planned by circuit (though not necessarily detailing the type of trimming required).

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