Volume 16, Issue 26 - June 26 - July 2, 2008

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Even under Power Lines,
Sustainable Ideas Take Root

Do you feel like the third grade moron in the grips of fourth-grade teacher Miss Grundy when your power company lectures you on why it’s their right and duty to butcher your trees?

We always have, and like that poor suffering third-grader, we’ve been berated but not converted.

This spring and into early summer both Baltimore Gas and Electric and, in most of Calvert, SMECO, have been at it again, hiring imported tree cutters to whack the beauty and offending limbs out of every tree that rises into their lines. BG&E calls it “vegetation management,” and they’re on the lookout for “additional aggressive trimming opportunities.”

Under the new “Enhanced Tree Trimming” standard, many communities will lose any branch overhanging within six feet of outside conductors. Hazard trees within 40 feet of either side of pole lines will also go.

The Critical Area doesn’t stop them any more than does your property line.

To save that tree, you’d have to climb into it and bear-hug an offending limb. Even so, they’d return in a day or two with the law on their side.

And plead as you will for graceful trimming, aesthetics is not in their mission. It’s whack, whack, whack.

Yes, despite their chopping, power outages are as predictable as summer thunderstorms, as many of our neighbors found firsthand in recent weeks. We all know it’s coming. We’ve put new batteries in our flashlights, oil in our lanterns and set matches by all the candlesticks.

Every four years, it all starts again. Meanwhile, wind, water, lightning and ice find ever-new ways to take down our utility lines and our power.

It’s a no-win situation — except for the tree-cutters who win the contracts. As long as trees grow, wind howls and ice forms, power outages are inevitable.

That’s why we’ve always supported the long-term economy of underground lines — even as our utility companies have countered that burying lines never makes routine economic sense. Our position hasn’t changed, though after this week reading the Bay Gardener — Dr. Francis Gouin, University of Maryland professor emeritus of horticulture — we see — even if the power companies don’t — that there’s another alternative: Power Trees. Such trees, he proposes, could be identified and developed to be grown under public utilities.

BG&E wouldn’t listen to the Bay Gardener. We don’t expect they’ll listen to us, either. At least this time around. But eventually, mysteriously, sustainable ideas take root — even under power lines. Readers! Send your photos to [email protected]

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