If a tree falls in the forest probably no one hears it but when a tree falls on a power line, everyone knows it.
Following the massive power outages caused by trees felled by Tropical Storm Irene and the October snow storm last year, there was much debate about how to prevent a similar scenario from occurring again.
In April, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Daniel C. Esty, in response to a recommendation made by Governor Malloy’s Two Storm Panel, formed the State Vegetation Management Task Force to study the issue of tree maintenance along the state’s roads and electrical power lines.
On Sept. 4, the 20-member panel released a report outlining steps the state, municipalities, utilities, and property owners can take to make roadside trees more resiliant in the event of a storm.
In a press release, the DEEP's task force highlighted the following key recommendations:
- “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.
- Municipalities should 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.
- All municipality 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.
- The state should provide “one-time” funding at the level of $100,000 per town for two years ($16.9 million per year) to assist in tree maintenance and the establishment of five-year municipal roadside forest management plans.
“The fact that a group with such diverse perspectives was able to reach consensus on a path forward should carry considerable weight. It’s significant that so many committed people worked together to propose ways to make the roads safer, keep healthy trees along our roads, and reduce the risks of damage from future storms," said Task Force Chairman Eric Hammerling of the Connecticut Forest & Parks Association.
"We sincerely believe that Connecticut’s roadside forests will be better managed if these recommendations are implemented.”
The Final Report including all recommendations may be found on the Task Force web page. Information about the Task Force, membership and meeting summaries is also included on this web page.