GUILFORD – Eversource’s plan to improve service from the intersection of Long Hill Road and Route 80 to Great Hill Road is raising concerns among some residents about the removal of healthy mature trees, some of which are as old as 150 years.
Great Hill Road residents Cynthia and David Damer said the electric company has been going door-to-door in recent months to discuss vegetation management with residents, including cutting down trees to install taller pylons for better service .
The Damers voiced their concerns to first selectman Matt Hoey after Eversource “began marking trees for removal,” David Damer said, particularly on a road designated “scenic.”
However, city officials said they were unaware of Eversource’s plans for the area. Hoey said he and Kevin McGee, Guilford’s environmental planner and arborist, “were unaware of this project” and it has been halted until further notice.
However, they do know that this is “part of a multi-year project to reconfigure power distribution in North Guilford, particularly on Long Hill and Great Hill,” Hoey said.
The track in that area, he said, “is the fourth worst track in their Connecticut area, according to Eversource.”
This information comes as no surprise to Hoey, who said his office “consistently received more outage calls in this area than anywhere else in the city.”
Eversource “constantly reviews our electrical delivery system to ensure it is reliable and resilient,” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said in an email. “And part of that investigation is looking at the history of the circuits in our system.”
“Unfortunately, the line serving this part of Guilford has had nearly a dozen outages over the past four years and that’s unacceptable,” Gross said. “That is why this work is necessary. By upgrading our equipment and doing the necessary tree work, we strengthen this circuit, which significantly improves its reliability and resilience and reduces the risk of failures. It’s about delivering more reliable energy to our customers in Guilford and all the communities we serve.”
According to a press release, Eversource is investing $1.4 million to upgrade the power system in the north part of Guilford. The work includes installing 85 stronger, thicker utility poles and laying nearly 1.5 miles of overhead power lines, including “tree wire” that is better able to withstand extreme weather conditions, the release said.
On Tuesday, April 25, 45-foot roadside poles were erected from the intersection of Long Hill Road and Route 80 to County Road, Cynthia Damer said.
Hoey said the pole replacement work has been approved by the public utility regulator, but “no vegetation management is planned as part of it and no line re-laying” is foreseen.
David Damer said, “Just over a mile north of Route 80 on Long Hill Road just up to 700 Great Hill Road, over 180 trees are marked,” and he sees no need to remove “healthy roadside trees.” “
“We have no problem cutting down dead trees, we have no problem with them pruning a fair portion of the mature, live trees near the lines,” he said.
Additionally, Cynthia Damer said they were concerned because the Great Hill Road is a designated scenic route.
“It’s narrow, 25 feet wide, and they want to cut down beautiful roadside trees — 150-year-old trees on both sides of the road,” she said.
Vegetation management work will not begin until the city has received all necessary information from Eversource, Hoey said.
“They are committed to providing us with a full description, rationale and benefits of their work,” Hoey said.
“Once we receive this document, we will share it with the concerned neighbors and then try to convene a hearing or forum with Eversource and the local residents who are concerned about it,” he said.
The Damers appreciate the project being put on hold.
“We need some time to figure out what they’re planning to do, why they’re doing it, what alternatives they’ve considered and how they’ve made their decisions on how to proceed with the whole thing,” he told David Damer.
“There has to be a balance between the value of the trees themselves, the environment and the need for reliable energy,” said Cynthia Damer. “There has to be a balance.”
This story has been updated.