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Brookline holding hearing on NStar request to remove trees

Posted by Evan Allen  July 23, 2012 10:49 AM

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tree cutting 2.jpg
Photo by Rob Utzschneider
A tree on Woodland Road that NStar is requesting permission to remove

Brookline’s Tree Planting Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss a request by NStar to cut down 22 trees that have grown too close to power lines on residential streets, according to Committee Chair Hugh Mattison.

NStar is requesting to remove two Norway Maples on Dunster Road, five Red Oaks on Laurel Road and 15 red oaks on Woodland Road. The trees, according to Mattison, are all many decades old.

Mattison said that the town holds the final authority on whether NStar will be allowed to remove the trees.

Tree warden Tom Brady said that he has already received written objections to the utility's tree removal request, which, under Chapter 87 of Mass General Laws, is enough to prevent the removal of the trees, unless NStar appeals to the Board of Selectmen.

A representative for NStar said that the utility regularly prunes trees around power lines that run through neighborhoods in order to maintain reliable electric service.

"Trees are the number one cause of power outages," said NStar spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman.

Each summer, she said, the utility submits pruning plans to municipalities for which trees it hopes to trim, and works with municipalities to implement thpse plans. If a town says it does not want trees NStar considers hazardous to be trimmed, NStar requests the right to remove them.

"We don't go in trying to cut," said Pretyman. "Our first step is always pruning."

The hearing will be held on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the 4th floor conference room of Brookline Town Hall on Washington Street. Public comments will be accepted.

Brady said that at the meeting, NStar will present its case for why the trees should be taken down, and residents will get a chance to discuss their concerns, but unless the utility appeals, the trees will remain.

NStar has recently come under fire for its aggressive new clear-cutting policy for trees surrounding high-voltage transmission lines. In 2010, the utility switched from trimming trees surrounding transmission lines to cutting them down completely, which has angered residents who say their neighborhoods are being transformed by the loss of vegetation. NStar maintains that clear-cutting is the only way to guarantee that falling trees won’t knock out power to thousands of customers.

The tree-cutting requests in Brookline are not related to NStar’s clear-cutting plan: the power lines in question are distribution lines, said Brady, not transmission lines.

Distribution lines are lower-voltage lines that deliver power to fewer customers than the transmission lines.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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