A Call For Action And Your Support For Electrical Power Protection

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?




2 responses to “A Call For Action And Your Support For Electrical Power Protection

  1. MNHockeymama

    Thank you for this article. It makes TOTAL sense. My husband is a high voltage linemen (working out of MN). He wasn’t called until Monday morning to travel to CT to help with power restoration. He said there is less than 100 linemen in CT usually – way too few to deal with a situation like this one alone. They work 16 hour days until power is restored. He told me that the damage to CT’s grid was worse than what he saw in the aftermath of Irene (he worked primarily in NY after that storm and restored power after Ike in ’08 in Texas, too). The wire used is extra-strong, unfortunately, the poles are very old, so when the trees hit the lines, the lines don’t snap, but the poles do. Every pole replaced takes at least a crew of 2-3 linemen to do. It takes a lot of time. They’re working as quickly as they can within the regulations they also must follow (the CT linemen are working as “bird-dogs” aka inspectors w/all the outstate crews to ensure all the rules/regulations are followed), which can be overwhelming sometimes. (On Long Island, no crew was allowed to use an auger to dig a hole for a pole – they all had to be hand-dug!)

    My heart hurts for the families living w/o power right now. It sucks. Especially with the cold weather upon us. However, please know that the linemen are doing all they can as quickly as they can to restore the power to the communities.

  2. I lost power in both storms, thankfully had a place to go this time. I have been listening to the news, the tone has turned to blaming CL&P for everything. But as I drive around and look at all the trees we have planted in our yards that overhang the power lines, I can’t help but wonder if our tree policy needs to be addressed. At the end of the day, if CL&P becomes more aggressive with their tree trimming, we will pay for it. The question is, will we be paying for what home owners should themselves be taking care of? What towns, cities and the state should be taking care of?

    Where does the home owners responsibility start and stop, where does the town’s responsibility start and stop. I drove past many homes that have large trees, planted on purpose along the front of the property, that have the capability of taking down the power lines on the street. Who pays for that tree trimming. If CL&P has to do the trimming, then ultimately the consumer pays for it.

    Burying the power lines would of course be the best route, but the cost would be staggering.

    It would seem that our love of trees has brought us to our knees.

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