Eversource: 'Imminent risk' forces trimming of Darien trees

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Some of the 40 trees are posted for removal along Little Brook Road in Darien.

Some of the 40 trees are posted for removal along Little Brook Road in Darien.

Jarret Liotta / Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — Eversource began trimming trees along Little Brook Road Friday to eliminate “imminent risk” to the electric system, company representatives said.

But neighbors, who are fighting Eversource’s proposed removal of some 50 trees along the south side of the intersection of Little Brook and North Little Brook roads, say the electric company’s trimming plan is not warranted.

“Neighbors are concerned that Eversource is overstepping its reach,” Natalie Tallis said in an email to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, alerting her about the impending work.

“I am disappointed to say that I believe Eversource not only acted in bad faith but showed blatant disregard for state and municipal law, as well as the Darien community, wildlife and the environment,” Tallis said about Friday’s work. “Eversource descended on Little Brook Road to address a single limb and wire contact. Yet, the company cut trees up and down the street and trimmed trees where signs had not been posted.”

Tallis asked Stevenson to file a formal complaint with the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority concerning Friday’s work.

The town’s tree warden has placed warning signs on some 50 trees, which sit at the south side of the intersection of Little Brook and North Little Brook roads. These trees have been tagged for removal as part of Eversource’s tree trimming and hazardous tree removal program.

Stevenson is backing neighbors, who oppose the tree removals and have filed a formal objection to the tree warden’s proposed removal. Stevenson said a public hearing will be held. No date has yet been scheduled.

An Eversource spokesperson, Mitch Gross, said that the emergency tree work will address an immediate safety hazard in the company’s transmission right of way in Darien and a threat to electric service in lower Fairfield County.

“The energy company will be trimming trees that have grown so close to the high voltage transmission lines that they are an imminent risk to the reliability to the electric system,” Gross said. “These trees are creating an emergency situation not only posing a serious threat to system reliability but also the safety of residents living nearby.”

Tallis, in her email, noted that another neighbor, Kevin Constanzo, said that Thursday one limb arced and made contact with a wire which created a noise. Last night, she said Eversource cordoned off the entire area in the Darien right of way easement from the intersection of Little Brook Road and Little Brook Road North to the entrance of Selleck Woods.

Gross said that an Eversource vegetation management team member discovered the problem with the transmission line along Little Brook Road on Thursday.

Eversource spokesman Frank Poirot, who was on site Friday during the trimming work, said the vegetation management team member was there to start a planting plan for the site and found that power lines were reaching some tree tops.

Poirot said some of the tips of the trees were found to be burned and others were just too close to the lines, forcing the trimming to be done for safety reasons. He said that no trees were going to be removed outright.

“Thousands of customers rely on these transmission lines for their electricity — particularly during the hot summer, when demand for electricity peaks,” Gross said.

Eversource had formally proposed the removal of some 50 trees along that road, Gross said, but neighbors raised concerns which put the removal on hold.

“The removals will now occur under emergency conditions to prevent further safety hazards,” Gross said.

Poirot said the trimming would be completed Friday.

The proposed work is part of a larger tree removal and vegetation clearing along the Metro-North train line between Fairfield and Cos Cob in Greenwich. Gross said this particular land in Darien is broken into pieces owned by the town, Metro-North, Eversource and the state.

Stevenson said other trees, aisde from the 40 to 50 on town lands, will also be removed. But since those are on state land, no posted warnings are required.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com