BWL TO PAUSE ON EAST LANSING TREE CUTTING

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 11:21 am
By: 
Alice Dreger with reporting contributed by Aron Sousa
BWL Tree Cutting in East Lansing

On Monday, August 18, representatives from the Board of Water and Light (BWL) met with members of East Lansing’s Oakwood and Glencairn neighborhoods at Hannah Community Center to discuss community concerns over BWL’s tree trimming and tree removal program in old-growth neighborhoods. At the meeting, Dennis Louney, First Ward Commissioner of BWL, assured those in attendance that BWL would not be doing further cutting until a better system has been established. Residents specifically asked for a compromise to save as many trees as possible.

Louney indicated he is planning to bring the matter to the meeting of the BWL “Committee of the Whole” which is set to occur tonight, August 19, at 5:30 pm in the REO Town Depot at 1201 S. Washington Avenue in Lansing. Members of the public may attend and speak at that meeting. Louney also said he plans to continue to work with the neighborhoods to address these issues.

BWL’s current actions in East Lansing, which include significant tree limb and whole-tree removal along its power lines, are occurring in the wake of the ice storm related outage that left thousands of East Lansing residents without power this past December and January. The report of the Community Review Team (see a pdf of the report here:  http://media.mlive.com/lansing-news/other/CRT%20Report_May%205_FINAL%20PDF.pdf) issued in May indicated that downed trees were largely responsible for the outage and that better tree maintenance was required, although the report also noted that “many tree-related outages were caused by trees outside of the utility right of way. These trees would not have been addressed during typical vegetation management practices and have been shown to greatly affect the reliability of the distribution system.”

BWL has hired an out-of-state company, Wright Tree Service, to remove many tree limbs and trees on private property over or through which BWL lines pass. Removal has included old-growth trees, including, for example, an oak at the corner of Fern and Sunset Lane that was approximately 165 years of age. (Houses in this area of Oakwood, which is part of the Oakwood Historic District, date to the 1910s and 1920s.)

Residents who attended the meeting Monday night raised a number of concerns they had, including failure to be adequately notified of what BWL planned, a belief that trimming has been overly aggressive, and a sense of being unable to come to a reasoned agreement with BWL and its contractor over the extent of trimming and removal.

Residents in attendance and at the follow-up Oakwood association meeting also raised questions about easements BWL allegedly maintains on many private properties in East Lansing. One attendee indicated he had tried to locate a BWL easement on his property and was unable to find any record of one. Questions have also been raised as to what the easements give BWL the right to do.

Another concern among property owners is the potential loss of value to their homes caused by removal of mature trees as well as exposure of wires in the neighborhood vista. A mature tree can add significantly to the value of a property, and consequently loss of trees may diminish the value of a property. Attendees of the Oakwood meeting raised the question of compensation by BWL to homeowners who suffer significant value loss due to tree destruction. In some U.S. locales, utility companies provide standardized compensation to homeowners for loss of value caused by utility-related tree trimming and removal.

Representatives of BWL at the meeting included Bob Perialas, BWL’s Chief Customer Officer. After the Hannah Community Center meeting, Perialas walked some of the Oakwood neighborhood with residents to get a sense of their concerns.

BWL will have a meeting with members of the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood this Wednesday, August 20, at 6 pm at the Hannah Community Center. According to a press advisory from the City of East Lansing, "Other East Lansing neighborhoods whose scheduled Tree Trimming is farther out in 2015 and 2016 will have specific meetings scheduled for their neighborhoods as the dates approach.” Perialas has also repeatedly invited BWL customers to contact him directly with questions and concerns by phone to 517.702.6828 or by email to rlp3@lbwl.com.

 

For an update on this issue, see this article:

http://www.eastlansinginfo.org/content/bwl-commissioners-will-not-pause-question-old-growth-trees-cutting-resume-immediately

Disclosure: Aron Sousa and Alice Dreger jointly own a home in the Oakwood Historic District and are customers of BWL. The trees on their property are not affected by BWL’s tree trimming program but the trees of their immediate neighbors are.

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