Pepco’s aggressive tree cutting this past summer in the rural areas of the County was nothing short of haphazard, shockingly leveling healthy trees on the opposite site of the road from power lines and outside of utility corridor (as was the case above along a stream that feeds the Potomac). Pepco finally released a report that explains some of their methodology. Pepco, we were told, will be targeting certain species of trees that grow in the County, many native species. Which ones? The short answer: Nearly all of them. It should be noted that many of the trees that are celebrated along the County’s designated rural and rustic byways are on the list and therefore subject to removal.
Pepco’s list (Montgomery County falls into the Central Region, denoted by a “C” on the chart) is quite exhaustive, taking issue with all species of oaks, hickories, maples, cherries and sycamores, even finding fault with bamboo. Pepco’s plan is to target all the trees on this list, despite the health of the tree, taking out all canopy species that have taken generations to grow along roadsides.What sort of trees does Pepco want along roads? Small, mostly non-native species- Pepco’s tree trimming brochure.
Pepco was unsuccessful in their bid to get permission to cut on private property without the owner’s permission in a Council hearing last year. Property owners still have the right to refuse Pepco access to their properties, with an all out war declared on most native tree species, it is no wonder that hundreds of county residents are denying Pepco the right to even trim their trees.
MCA continues to work with Pepco and the county to make sure that best practices (as designated by certified arborists) are employed along our rustic roads. We seek appropriate balance between reliable power and preserving our roadside forests. This all comes at a time when County preservationists via Conservation Montgomery are pressing forward with a urban tree legislation.
Update: The Council heard from Pepco and concerned residents on Monday July 18th. Pepco was roundly criticized for their overzealous tree trimming and denied the right to cut trees on private property without owner consent.On the whole, council members urged Pepco to work with established best practices to balance the need for trimming (not butchering) with the need to protect healthy trees.
The hearing laid bare a few systemic problems that need to be addressed. Currently, the office responsible for the health of roadside trees is under the Department of Transportation, a department which sides with Pepco’s tree decisions 98% of the time, often in opposition to the trained DOT arborist (and we assume, industry best practices). The care of these roadside trees should be under a county-wide department that better balances the sound advice of trained arborists with Pepco’s reliability goals.
Some upcounty farmers in attendance brought up that over grown trees in the right-of-way can sometimes make roads unsafe for large farm equipment. While there are some roads where this is the case, this is a matter for DOT and the Rustic Roads department. Pepco (despite recent developments) should not be in the tree trimming business, but in the power delivery business, part of which is selectively trimming trees that impede those goals, but no more than that.
Thanks to all those that wrote in with concerns to the Council. MCA will continue to work with Pepco and the County to find a proper balance between reliability and the health of roadside forests under arborist certified best practices.
Press on the Hearing:
N. Potomac Patch
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The sound of chainsaws is not a typical summer soundtrack on the County’s rural roads. Pepco has been been out and force not just trimming but decimating trees along rural roads. Some because, despite being native members of Maryland’s forests, Pepco insists they are “the wrong species”, some are on the other side of the road from the lines and are perfectly healthy. Much of this cutting is happening in conflict with Rustic Roads designations and the Master Plan. One heartbreaking example- a 147 year old native Hackberry tree with a fully healthy canopy along a stream bed that feeds the Potomac off West Willard rd. pictured above.
The Council will hear from Pepco and the community on Monday the 18th. Letters expressing concern with Pepco’s overzealous tree trimming should be sent to email@example.com before the meeting. MCA has been asked to testify at the hearing. It is worth noting thanks to Council members Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner for their leadership on this issue.
Please note: this tree work is merely stage 1 – Pepco has said they intend to clear much more…unless we press the Council to rein them in. Pepco is asking the Council to be granted authority to cut trees without land owner permission. Bad idea…bad precedent. A balance must be struck between reliable power and our roadside trees.
A Press Roundup on Pepco’s over ambitious tree cutting
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