Power Outage Fight Will Cost Nearly 100 Trees
Pepco will cut down roughly 100 trees to put a stop to power outages in Greenbelt.
An audience of around 50 gathered in the Greenbelt Community Center on Tuesday to hear Pepco's plans for putting a stop to the ongoing power outages in Greenbelt and about its smart meter installation project.
Pepco's enhancement project calls for Pepco to replace more than 500 poles, 240 transformers and 11 or so miles worth of wire in Old Greenbelt, according to Pepco Project Manager Gary Keeler.
But the solution Greenbelt has been requesting will come at a price.
"Trees," said Keeler when Patch asked him about the main cause of outages in Greenbelt. They are a problem particularly during storms, he added.
Pepco arborist Nathan McElroy told Patch that Pepco's plan calls for cutting down roughly 100 trees. He said the trees that present the most problems are some of the weak species like locust, poplar, and Virginia pine. Pepco prefers to remove this type if they are in the vicinity of power lines because of their tendency to cause outages, he said.
Some wild invasives will also need to come down, such as the mulberry or Ailanthus trees, according to McElroy. They’re invasives and prolific sprouters, and they don't do well around utility lines, he said.
Even healthy trees may come down, according to McElroy. He talked about the difficulty in identifying root rot in Virginia pines. But they are prone to rot, so Pepco plans to remove any Virginia pine in the vicinity of wires that are leaning toward them, McElroy said.
Pepco considers poplars a problem because they have weak wood and drop limbs as they grow. They get to be massive, so they can't be too close to the wires, McElroy explained.
But it’s the state, not Pepco, that is setting the standards, Pepco spokespeson Bob Hainey stated when discussing which trees would come down. He referenced RM43, reliability standards that the Maryland Public Service Commission is proposing for all electrical utilities, saying he expects them to be enacted within a month.
Many of the trees considered problematic will be spared, though, because of Pepco’s plan to get rid of a redundant line that runs parallel to the north part of Crescent Road near St. Hugh’s Catholic Church. The red x's on the map included with this article trace the line.
Removing the line will also be a huge benefit from an outage standpoint, Keeler said.
McElroy encouraged the audience on Tuesday to meet Pepco in the middle. Complimenting Greenbelt for having a lot of beautiful canopy, he said, “I love trees too, but we’re trying to find a happy medium.”
For the past month, arborists contracted by Pepco have worked to identify hazard trees, and trees that need pruning or possible removal. And the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has approved Pepco's plan. Now it is being reviewed by the City of Greenbelt’s arborist, McElroy said.
“It’s a huge huge project, you guys are going to benefit greatly from it,” Keeler said. “But you’re going to have to bear with us, because it’s not going to go perfect.”
The tree work will happen first, Keeler said. After that, he said Pepco would normally come through and set the new poles, with equipment and wire installations following that, and finally, it would perform removal work.
He projected the $1 million-plus project would begin in June and take the rest of the year to complete.
Stay tuned to Patch for a report on Pepco's smart meter activation plan in Greenbelt.
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