A special state task force has recommended that Connecticut spend $100,000 per town over a two-year period on a tree management program to avoid the kind of widespread destruction and power outages wrought last year by two major storms.
The State’s Vegetation Management Task Force says the state should set aside $33.8 million over a two year period to deal with managing roadside trees and other growth near power lines, or $100,000 for each of the state’s 169 towns, according to a release issued Tuesday by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The task force was created in April by Dan Esty, the DEEP’s commissioner, and charged with examining roadside tree maintenance after Hurricane Irene and then a freak October nor’easter in 2011 each cut power to more than 700,000 Connecticut residents.
One of the main culprits identified in the massive power outages, some of which lasted for up to 10 days in some towns, was tree overgrowth near power lines.
The task force has recommended that:
- “Right Tree, Right Place” guidelines must be used for planting trees and shrubs in roadside forest areas. The concept of “Right Tree, Right Place” is that tree selection should be matched to the particular conditions at a given site. This includes planting trees that have short mature heights close to utilities and roads while allowing progressively taller trees further from roads and wires.
- Roadside forests must be managed to become more storm resistant over time through a combination of tree pruning, removals, and “Right Tree, Right Place” planting. The Task Force recognizes the importance of large trees in the current and future roadside forest and the many benefits of tall trees – assuming proper maintenance – should also be considered in all planting decisions.
- Property owners should be made more aware of the stewardship required to properly maintain trees.
- Informational resources about roadside forests should be centralized in a logical place for landowners, municipalities, businesses, and others.
It also has recommended that municipalities:
- Develop five-year roadside management plans that include tree pruning and removal guidelines along public roads, including standards for tree planting that include the avoidance of overhead and underground power and communication lines.
- Local tree wardens should be certified as to their qualifications within one year of being appointed to the position.
- All trees planted within the public right-of-way and on municipal property should be reviewed and approved by the town tree warden.
“This Task Force provides thoughtful recommendations for improving the stewardship of Connecticut’s roadside forests and treasured urban forest canopy while enhancing the state’s ability to keep the lights on,” Esty said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “We will assess the recommendations of the Task Force to see how they can be applied to help preserve our beautiful roadside forest while protecting our electrical power infrastructure.”
In presenting its recommendations to the DEEP, Task Force Chairman Eric Hammerling of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association said, “We sincerely believe that Connecticut’s roadside forests will be better managed if these recommendations are implemented.”