CL&P crews trim town's trees

Residents throughout Wilton have probably noticed a little less foliage this season.

Crews have been coming through removing trees around town.

The work is the result of a five-year, $300-million infrastructure strengthening plan, developed by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P), and approved by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in January.

“Trees are the No. 1 cause of [power] outages, especially during severe weather, said Mitch Gross of CL&P.

While not all residents were thrilled to see the crew from Asplundh Tree Expert Co. on Belden Hill Road last week, others feel it is a necessary project.

“All people have to do is remember what last year was like,” resident Donna Cole said.

It was just one year ago that Superstorm Sandy slammed into Connecticut, knocking out power all over Wilton. CL&P and United Illuminating reported 625,000 outages in the state on Oct. 30, 2012. Eighty percent of CL&P customers in Wilton were without power for days.

With that in mind, crews continued working to prune trees away from power lines. Traffic slowed up along Belden Hill Road, but flagmen did their part to keep things moving as men in two buckets used electric saws to bring wayward branches down.

“Some of these trees are also damaged, if not dead,” said a crew member who declined to give his name. “This is necessary work.”

“I’m OK with the work they’re doing,” Ms. Cole said. She and her husband recall the long stretch without power after Sandy came through.

As she looked around her yard, she indicated that the same workers just up the road from her would eventually be visiting. She highlighted a maple tree that she said will be pruned.

“I don’t mind them doing it,” she said. “It has to be done, to avoid the power outages. My husband is in a wheelchair and we would like to avoid that again, if possible.

“A lot of the lower branches hit the wires.”

Mr. Gross of CL&P said that the company does understand the attachment to trees.

“We also understand how many of our customers feel about the trees,” he said. “We’re trying find a balance while keeping the service from being interrupted.”

The five-year plan, known as the System Resiliency Plan, will include tree trimming, electrical hardening through the use of coated thicker-gauge wire, and structural hardening by strengthening utility poles, cross-arms and related system equipment.

According to a press release from CL&P, $32 million will be invested in 2013 to expand the tree trimming program. More than half of the $300-million plan was to go toward tree trimming.

“CL&P has one of the most heavily wooded service areas of anywhere in the country,” Mr. Gross said.

He indicated an average of 320 crews are trimming trees on an average day around their coverage area, as well as 17,000 miles of overhead lines that CL&P is responsible for.

In Wilton, 140 miles of road will be trimmed, covering 82% of the town.

“Our goal is reliable service,” he said.

CL&P, along with many other utility companies throughout the Northeast, was severely criticized for its response to not only Superstorm Sandy but the October snowstorm of 2011, along with Hurricane Irene earlier that year. The storms knocked power out around the state for days.

Back in Ms. Cole’s yard, she pondered the work yet to be done.

“I’m looking forward to them being pruned,” she said. “But I want to be here for it.”