Op-Ed: Eversource details importance of tree trimming in areas like Darien

Sean Redding, manager of vegetation management with Eversource, explains the dangers of arcing and why the utility had to do emergency tree pruning on June 11, 2021.

Sean Redding, manager of vegetation management with Eversource, explains the dangers of arcing and why the utility had to do emergency tree pruning on June 11, 2021.

Jarret Liotta / Hearst Connecticut Media

As we strive to balance the beauty and environmental benefits that trees provide with our responsibility to deliver safe and reliable power, there’s one fact that we can’t ever ignore — trees don’t belong near high voltage power lines.

That’s especially true with the high voltage transmission lines that run over and next to Little Brook Road in Darien. The trees we identified for removal are growing close enough to our 115,000-volt lines that the electricity they carry has been jumping into the top branches, creating an immediate public safety hazard.

Residents have asked why we are proactively removing the trees rather than just trimming them as we have in the past. Electric transmission lines are very different from distribution lines that run along streets delivering power to homes and businesses across the state. It’s like comparing a fire hose to a garden hose - our transmission wires carry such a high voltage that they’re too thick to be covered with an insulating coating like our distribution wires can be.

The clearance area around transmission lines provides the necessary protection, which is why it’s essential to keep this space free of vegetation to prevent a fire or other public safety issue — and outages for our customers. It’s why we’re removing trees from our transmission rights of way across Connecticut as the frequency and severity of storms continues to increase.

We recognize the trees on Little Brook Road provide an important visual screen that helps to hide the Metro North tracks during the summer, and we understand the impact their removal creates. We want to work with Darien and neighboring communities where tree removal will occur to establish collaborative community partnerships to plant compatible, native vegetation as we remove the trees on the line. With more than half of the state covered in forest, this is an opportunity to support reclamation of habitat diversity using native species that support the return of wildlife, by planting shrubs and pollinator plants that they depend on. This type of replanting also ensures the long-term safety of the transmission lines carrying the electricity that we depend on every day.

We also recognize that we’re working in areas that have not been addressed for many years; however, this tree trimming and removal is essential to fulfilling our responsibility to deliver safe and reliable power to our customers in Connecticut. We want to be a good neighbor and are deeply committed to working with Darien residents and community partners to find ways to turn this difficult situation into a solution that resolves public safety issues and supports native plants, shrubs and forest-edge habitat for decades to come.

Sean Redding is a manager of vegetation management at Eversource.