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March   8

Dude, Where's My Tree?

The nerve of us -- wanting our appliances to stay on. The Montclair Times reports on what PSE&G really thinks of Montclair's very vocal power challenged...

Residents throughout New Jersey expect that, when they flick on their lights, televisions and computers, they will stay on. According to PSE&G Division Forester Robert Hagglund, many Montclair residents are more insistent than most people: they demand that their appliances stay on.

“There’s been an outcry by some residents,” he acknowledged. “They want the reliability to be better.”

And of course, if you've got outages, there has to be a scapegoat. This time, it's the trees. And they will pay. Seems PSE&G is in the midst of massive trimming sweep of Upper Montclair, the area where power outages have occurred most frequently.

“We will be aggressively, and I do mean aggressively, trimming the trees away from the high-voltage lines,” Hagglund said. “The bottom line is, we’ve got to come into your town and trim trees. The [state Board of Public Utilities] mandates this.”

PSE&G also cites sabotage by those pesky suicide squirrels (...why do you hate our power?)

Power has been cut due to squirrels fatally chomping through lines or getting zapped in transformers.

When the dust settles, inappropriate trees that dare to grow tall in Montclair will be eliminated. On Hagglund's hit list, too-tall oaks, sycamores and maples. Instead, look forward to more “appropriate” and harder-to-pronounce trees such as a hybridized myopi maple and Japanese zelkova.

March 8, 2006 in Seen around town | Permalink


Perhaps it time to perform an internal audit of PSE&G's internal practices and systems.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Mar 8, 2006 9:30:42 AM

"The day the squirrel went berserk
In the First Self-Righteous Church
In the sleepy little town of Pascagoula
It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival
They were jumpin' pews and shoutin' Hallelujah!"

Posted by: Miss Martta | Mar 8, 2006 9:32:57 AM

What, you have a problem with an internal review? If you have a problem you fix it not ignore it.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Mar 8, 2006 9:40:44 AM

No, I actually agree with you Lasermike. I just couldn't resist posting that song about the squirrel.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Mar 8, 2006 9:45:41 AM

If you dare to complain we'll butcher your trees, oh and kill your squirrels too! That'll learn ya.

Posted by: Max | Mar 8, 2006 9:57:52 AM

I recently read the terrifying account of a University student attacked for doritos. Apparently the student's failure to cooperate outright has led squirrelss everywhere to retaliate against them till they submit.
On an expedition to Mount Eagle Rock, the climbers had their vehicle key and attached credit card STOLEN by a
squirrel. Yep.
Researchers had to hike several hundred yards back to the public access, hitchhike to the nearest phone , and beg someone to drive with another key. The Researchers first blamed a rival group for this treacherous act, but the truth came out when researchers discovered a gnawed-on key next to some oaks, sycamores and maples.
My story is TRUE! Where will it end?

Posted by: JT | Mar 8, 2006 9:59:07 AM

"'We will be aggressively, and I do mean aggressively, trimming the trees away from the high-voltage lines,' Hagglund said."

I may be nitpicking here, but are the lines that come down our streets considered "high-voltage" or are the H-V lines the ones that are on the taller towers, like up by Montclair State? It seems to me that trimming the trees interfering with the H-V lines on property that PS&G either owns or has easements to access shouldn't be a big deal, and should be part of standard seasonal maintenance. It may not be our trees, it may just be their trees.

Plan B is to give the squirrels guns and let them defend themselves.

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Mar 8, 2006 10:07:51 AM

"Plan B is to give the squirrels guns and let them defend themselves."

Conan...after the hawk in your back yard last weekend, I say let the squirrels use any means necessary for their defense.

Posted by: the Iceman | Mar 8, 2006 10:12:51 AM

Conan, I believe the lines that run past houses are HV lines--a "step down" transformer brings the voltage down before the line runs into the house. So yes, PSE&G is threatening to turn Montclair from a leafy suburb of NY into somethign more akin to a neighborhood on Mars, or at least the outskirts of Pheonix. It behooves Montclair residents to go out and chain themselves to a tree, lickity split.

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 8, 2006 10:17:11 AM

Reading further in the Montclair Times article:

"Hagglund said that, 'decades ago, the then-planners of Montclair opted to string along electrical lines in many backyards. PSE&G now must confront the consequences of this decision, such as the difficulty in reaching the obstructive trees or even driving crane-trucks into inaccessible yards.'"

I think this quote from the article sheds some more light on the problem. If these wires were easier to access, the problems might be a lot easier to deal with.

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Mar 8, 2006 10:20:30 AM

They cut down a tree across the street from me last week, and the only reason we could think of was the branches were in the way of powerlines. Like the giving tree it once was tall and beautiful, now it is a stump.

Posted by: hrhppg | Mar 8, 2006 10:23:36 AM

The Big East College basketball tourney starts today.

12:00...Syracuse vs Cincinnati

Let's go Orange

Posted by: the Iceman | Mar 8, 2006 10:29:30 AM

You got that right!

Posted by: Miss Martta | Mar 8, 2006 10:37:27 AM

The extended series of recent power outages in Upper Montclair was attributed primarily to the underground cable that crossed the GSPkwy from Nutley. At least that is what PSE&G told me directly. So now PSE&G wants to cut down trees to fix our power problems? That is a distraction technique worthy of Dubya (i.e. a guy in Afganistan attacks us with our own airplanes, declare war on Iraq!)

Posted by: BobbyD | Mar 8, 2006 10:45:39 AM

If PSE&G wants to come into my yard and cut down my trees, they're going to have to do it with my dog's teeth wrapped around their ankles. Go ahead, guys, make my day.

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 8, 2006 10:57:18 AM

PSE&G were in the process of butchering a tree on my block in the Brookdale section this morning and were in a neighbor's backyard doing the same yesterday.

The tree in from of my house had already been butchered to clear the power line before we bought the house last year.

Is anyone else experiencing brief outages on an almost dailly basis? I need to reset my clocks almost every day.

Posted by: DK | Mar 8, 2006 10:58:42 AM

I wonder if they consult with any of the three (3) certified aborists (*NOT*) that Montclair has on staff before attacking the trees.

Posted by: badd_patti | Mar 8, 2006 11:32:06 AM

This makes me sick. I've seen some of the butchery that PSEG does on trees to free up the wires. Can't they at least do it in a less obtrusive way? And for that matter, rather than cutting down trees, why not start a program of putting wires underground. I realize this is expensive but there must be a way this can be done. East Orange has no phone wires on the streets near my house in Bloomfield. They've been underground ever since I moved there in 1987 and no doubt way before. We, on the other hand, have wires crisscrossing our back yard. And one time about 14 years ago when a storm made one of our cedar trees lean into the wires, PSE&G came and chopped the top off it and left it there like that, along with the logs from the tree, which we had to pay to have removed by someone else! PSE&G refused to remove them for free. So beware if you do agree to have them chop anything in your yard - make sure you don't end up paying.

Posted by: mauigirl52 | Mar 8, 2006 12:01:34 PM

Wishful thinking, I suppose, but couldn't it be suggested to PSEG that for every tree they chop down, they replant one, elsewhere on the homeowner's property, at the homeowner's discretion? Isn't that the Arbor Day Foundation's rule, or another green organization's? For every tree chopped down, replant one ( or maybe two)! At any rate, mature trees are disappearing in baristaville at an alarming rate. Disheartening because they contribute so much, environmentally, aesthetically, etc.

Posted by: glee | Mar 8, 2006 12:09:58 PM

Many utility poles have an additional pair of thick wires strung from a bracket at the top of the pole. They're marked by grey insulators, and hook in to the top of the transformer cans.

These are residential HV lines, and they get knocked loose by falling branches, gnawed by soon to be cooked squirrels, etc.

The thinner wires coming out of the transformer hang lower on the pole, and tie into the lines going into your house.

PSEG has an easement to maintain the wires and trim the trees around them. They've used police escorts where necessary to obtain access to their wires. South Orange has some experience with the back yard access, and it isn't pretty...

Posted by: Paul from OB | Mar 8, 2006 12:33:48 PM

I hear you, DK. Power was out in my nook of Brookdale for a couple hours this morning--this AFTER two days of aggressive tree-trimming.

Posted by: solar-powered | Mar 8, 2006 1:30:46 PM

A previous poster (mauigirl52) mentioned the lack of overhead wires in East Orange.

She's right. In its day (which we Late Middle Agers caught the tail end of) East Orange was one of the most sophisticated and progressive cities in America. As such, it was the first American city to require--as almost every Eurpoean city does-- that all untility wires be buried underground. Not only did this eliminate the visual clutter occasioned by overhead wires; it also allowed for much healthier shade trees since they didn't have to be repeatedly hacked away to protect the wires.

I've always been surprised that a town like Montclair, which values aesthetics and the environemnt so much, did not follow East Orange's leadership in this area. Maybe it's time that we did.

Posted by: Martin Gill | Mar 8, 2006 1:58:30 PM

I can't remember, does Glen Ridge have underground phone lines or overhead wires? Glen Ridge I know prides itself on being a "tree-lined" town.

Posted by: mauigirl52 | Mar 8, 2006 2:07:51 PM

"... for every tree they chop down, they replant one... "

That'd be fine, with the addition of the phrase "of the same age."

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 8, 2006 3:22:25 PM

Lack of tree trimming in Ohio was what caused the massive 2003 power outage. This is a critical part of maintaining the grid.

However -- the utilities tend to really overtrim. They can be stopped and made to do reasonable cuts, but be warned. If/when they show up on your block you probably will not have any shade for the next several years....

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