In recent days there has been a lot written and said about the amount of time required to restore power in Connecticut. Sitting in a cold dark home for long periods can stimulate some frustration and in some cases anger but that will not lessen the potential for a repeat of the same situation in the future.
While this past week has been a challenge and again points out the weakness in our system of electrical energy delivery, it should
also be accepted as a warning and planning tool to reduce future problems. Only a week before this latest storm the special committee formed to look at the problems created when hurricane Irene knocked out electricity heard a dire warning of a potential power outage larger and
more difficult than Irene.
The warning was concerning hurricane type weather and not if but when a category 3 storm once again hits Connecticut. We have seen the devastation from that magnitude storm in the 1930’s and again in the 1950’s the warning said when it occurs again it could take down as much as 80% of our trees.
Now with the two recent examples it should not take the mind of a rocket scientist to understand that there is a direct correlation between tree damage and the interruption of our electrical power transmission system. The vast majority of our current interruptions in electrical transmission are due to damage caused by falling branches, limbs and trees. This problem can and should be addressed to reduce the future potential for catastrophic damage and long term electrical transmission interruption.
One of the steps that should be taken was found in what many people would call their junk mail. In the last electric bill sent out by CL&P was a flyer that listed recommendations for trees in close proximity to power lines. You may have ignored it as just junk mail and tossed it without reading it, perhaps that was a mistake. The information including a recommendation for which trees to plant near power lines to reduce the potential for damage during times of storms. It also included tree cut back recommendations.
There are times when the taste of medicine is a bitter pill to swallow but the alternative is future suffering that is not necessary. This is one of those times and while some will be aghast at the recommendations put forth, in the interest of public safety, health and welfare we should take them seriously and act upon them immediately.
It is time for local zoning changes that will address tree locations in the same protective way we address building locations. It is time we alter our thinking about the types of trees we allow near transmission lines. There are many beautiful trees that can be grown near lines, trees that will not attain the height to become a future problem.
We have a choice, we can join the chorus and blame CL&P and government or we can accept some of the responsibility ourselves and do something about the problem. We can contribute to the solutions or we can continue to prolong the problems waiting for a future disaster while our stubbornness and reluctance to change ignores the medicine we need to swallow.
In 1965 Mehmet Karabeyoglu, a Turkish exchange student in Manchester was asked what surprised him the most about America and
his response was a simple observation, “all your wires on poles”, and the audience laughed. He thought it was foolish to have the wires above ground in such a great nation of prosperity. Perhaps he was right, perhaps we were penny wise and pound foolish when we first designed the system, but it is the system we have now and it will not be changed overnight.
Since we must deal with the system we have we must be flexible in our thoughts and actions to better protect the health, safety and welfare for our community by changing the way we protect our electrical transmission lines. The old adage that an ounce of medicine is worth a pound of cure certainly addresses this situation.
Will you support policy changes that will better protect our electrical transmission system from tree damage?