By Scott Nixon, Times-Advocate Staff
SOUTH HURON — If they didn’t know before, Hydro One is now well aware of the concerns in the community about the number of trees the provincial corporation has slated for removal, transplanting or trimming as part of the its line maintenance program.
As previously reported, members of South Huron council and the public have expressed concern about the number of trees in Exeter marked by Hydro One for removal or transplant. Those trees include not only tall mature trees that are near power lines, but also small, young trees.
Neil Anderson and Nancy Shaddick of Hydro One attended council’s Monday morning meeting to explain the situation.
Shaddick said Hydro One does line maintenance across the province to reduce the risk of power outages, and reduce safety hazards to the public and workers.
Shaddick said Hydro One acquired the Exeter utility system in 2001 and no major tree maintenance work has taken place in that time. She noted there are a lot of tall-growing trees on Exeter boulevards directly beneath power lines.
Anderson said trees to be removed are painted with an orange “H”, while trees that can be transplanted have an orange flag on them. Those that are slated to be trimmed are not marked.
Anderson added that if the trees marked for transplanting have not been moved by the time of Hydro One’s next tree maintenance program in Exeter (in about six years) they will be removed.
He said Hydro One wants to see low-growing shrubs on the boulevards.
He explained those trees which are to be removed are being done because they’ve grown into the power lines and more than one third of the tree would need to be trimmed to clear them from the lines. Trees with decay are also slated for removal. He said there are also cases in which private property owners have asked Hydro One to remove trees.
Shaddick said Hydro One had a forestry technician talk to property owners who would be losing trees through the line maintenance program.
She also brought up the idea of a joint advisory committee for the town that would deal with the program. Council agreed to having a committee, and upon questioning from Coun. Wayne DeLuca, Shaddick promised no trees would be cut down before the committee had met and returned with recommendations.
Coun. Dennis Hockey said he can appreciate the need for a line maintenance program, but said he found Hydro One’s plans “very aggressive.”
He called Hydro One’s plans “ridiculous,” and said they look more like a program for a rural area than an urban one. Hockey said some of the trees on the boulevard were planted by the former Exeter utility for a three-year maintenance cycle, and added residents find them attractive and they are an important part of the environment.
Hockey said Hydro One’s six-year tree maintenance cycle wasn’t adequate.
DeLuca asked Shaddick and Anderson about the success rate of survival for those trees Hydro One says can be transplanted. Anderson said Hydro One doesn’t do the actual transplanting, it simply labels those that can be transplanted.
DeLuca said he spoke to arborists who have told him it will be expensive to transplant the larger trees and one expert told him the trees will die because they’re too big to be transplanted.
“It’s another tree you’re killing,” DeLuca said, referring to Hydro One’s plans for Exeter as “a clear cut.”
As far as the advisory committee Hydro One proposed, DeLuca said it comes “after the fact.”
DeLuca said the trees are important to Exeter and said London has large, beautiful trees and “they don’t cut them.”
He added cutting trees should be the last resort and Hydro One should be asking, “How can we save the trees?”
DeLuca wondered if Hydro One was going to go to Southcott Pines and cut down all the trees there.
Mayor George Robertson asked if Hydro Ones removes the stump of a tree when a tree is cut down. Anderson said they do not. Robertson then asked Hockey if the former Exeter PUC removed the stumps when it cut down trees. Hockey said they did.
Robertson said there will be “some hard feelings” in town if Hydro One leaves the stumps and it ends up costing taxpayers to pay for their removal.
Council will move forward with Hydro One on the proposed advisory committee and will decide who will sit on the committee.