To the Editors:

Still not through the worst aftermath of a hurricane, we must ask: Why do we have a 19th-century electric distribution system in a 21st-century world. The paradigm of sticking creosote-soaked wooden utility poles rotting in the ground for many decades has proven utterly inadequate. We can’t have these “toothpicks” leaning at all different angles from the vertical, victims of falling trees, ready to keel over in a moderate blow.

The distribution system needs to be hardened. Steel or concrete poles, not wooden toothpicks. Spans between poles could be shortened. Engineered barriers (say, shrouded steel cables above to protect the wires below) from pole to pole could prevent a falling tree from putting us all in the dark for a week or more. In some cases, the wires need to be underground.

The problem is manifold. It appears that Eversource was not fully staged to meet the Isaias challenge. It seems the relationship between utilities and public service commissions is too tense, rather than collaborative. The commissions are inclined to say “No” to every rate request and the utilities ask for more than is needed. A look at the electric bill’s “Delivery” section leaves one’s eyeballs moving in different directions. What is all of that?

We need a system that is more robust by an order of magnitude and no amount of vegetation management is a substitute. We cannot have a third of the country’s lines-people descend upon us each time there’s hard wind to splice it all together again. And we will pay for that restoration.

We the ratepayers must demand a much more wind resistant system and we must be willing to pay for it— but we’ll pay only once, instead of the installment plan after every bad storm that obtains no better protection.

Nicholas Battista