Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 23, 2012

Damned If You Trim, Damned If You Don’t

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on July 23, 2012

One of the primary complaints made against power companies following major power outages seems to be their deficiencies in the field of tree cutting/pruning/etc. Basically, the story is told that X amount of customers would not be without power following Y “unforeseen” event if the utilities had done a better job of cutting down trees that grow next to power lines.

A seemingly related phenomenon is the uproar when those same utilities attempt to address the issue but don’t take into account aesthetic value of the same trees (when in non-stormy times they don’t represent a threat to the transmission of electricity but instead add value to home, uh, values).

On the same day similar articles appeared in the Boston Globe and Washington Post. First the paper addressing the most recent event:

Like so many other people in the area, Rock Creek Woods residents were already furious with Pepco for the multiple days they endured without power during a relentless heat wave a few weeks ago. Now neighbors here are angry over Pepco’s strategy to prevent future outages: the slicing and dicing of much-beloved Yoshino cherry trees.

The outrage in Rock Creek Woods, just north of Kensington, and elsewhere in Maryland signifies the conundrum faced by Pepco: People get mad when trees fall on power lines and cause long outages. But residents also fume when they feel Pepco prunes too aggressively and spoils their neighborhood’s aesthetic charms.

Surprising to me was that fact that this issue appeared in the press up in New England around the same time, despite the lag in time since their similar “event” last fall:

Officials at NStar, which came under heavy criticism after widespread power outages last year, say clear-cutting around transmission lines is the only way to guarantee consistently reliable power. But communities are increasingly up in arms over the the utility’s integrated vegetation management program, launched in 2010. In Sudbury, tensions between tree cutters and residents ran so high that a police detail was called in to keep the peace.

While I can sympathize with the general concern about the impact on the nature of the, uh, nature in these neighborhoods, I can’t but help wonder if in terms of increasing resilience we have already met our most intractable foe–and it is us.

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1 Comment »

Comment by Bruce Martin

July 26, 2012 @ 9:37 am

The same perspectives have surfaced during vegetation management programs in the SF Bay Area of California. A twenty year plan to reduce ‘unnatural’ growth on Mt Tamalpais was stopped after the first year due to public concern for aesthetics. Our citizens sometimes do not differentiate between a natural state and a human developed state. There are trade offs between risk and mitigation which appear undesirable in advance of an event, and obvious afterwards.

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