Neighborhoods unite against NStar tree-cutting plan

The Board of Selectmen have authorized town counsel to investigate any feasible options available to mitigate the impact to abutters of tree cutting by NStar in the four miles of rights-of-way (ROW) under transmission lines, up to and including filing a lawsuit to enjoin NStar to stop the tree removal.


Selectmen met with NStar representatives and over 50 Duxbury residents Monday evening in the Mural Room at Town Hall to discuss the im- pact of planned, widespread tree cutting in NStar’s ease- ments at the transmission lines. The affected neighborhoods include Apple Hill, Mallard’s Cove, DeLorenzo Drive and Birch Street along Route 53.

Bill Hayes, senior arborist at NStar, explained NStar’s vegetation management pro- gram and five-year mainte- nance plan to the board. In March, Hayes said NStar sent notifications to communities in the area that would be im-

pacted by the tree removal in the rights-of-way. Previously impacted towns include Wa- tertown, Sudbury, Wayland and Pembroke. Hayes said the vendor, Vegetation Control Services, met with concerned home owners at least once to discuss the removal process.

The transmission line right-of-way is generally 210 feet wide throughout Duxbury. It has two 115,000 volt trans- mission lines going through, suspended on an H-frame.

Hayes said NSTAR’s In- tegrated Vegetation Manage- ment Program (IVM) uses the “Wire Zone-Border Zone” method to maintain the trans- mission corridors. The Wire Zone is the area directly un- der the transmission lines. The Border Zone is the area ten feet from the edge of the wires at ground level to the ROW easement edge. In the border zone, incompatible trees and brush are removed and the na- tive trees and shrubs that have a mature height of 15 feet or less are saved.

“Our intention is to

go out to the easement edge, which is determined from a surveyed plan, and flag in- compatible trees,” Hayes said. “Incompatible trees are white pines, oaks and maples; any- thing that has a potential ma- ture height of over 15 feet.”

A major concern for abut- ters is that the crews are not doing certified surveys of the land to determine the exact lo- cation of the edge of the ease- ment.

Resident Jennifer Niles said the gathered group was willing to be reasonable and understood recent require- ment changes had a significant impact on the clearing of the rights-of-way, but said there was “nothing reasonable about what you are starting to do.”

“We are all here because we care about the beauty of our neighborhood and we are here to collectively say we will do whatever it takes to slow you down and stop you all together,” Niles said.

Craig Lovette of Chandler Street said he has 150 trees on his property that are flagged to be removed when the clear- cutting begins in June. One of those trees includes his chil- dren’s tree house.

“Yes, the NSTAR guys want to cut down a tree that currently holds my daughters’ treehouse,” Lovett said. “But larger than any single home- owner’s concern, the proposed NSTAR tree removal activity will negatively affect the en- vironmental and historic char- acter of Duxbury. In terms of conservation, environmental impact and historic preserva- tion of our town we must unite

to do something to prevent the excessive elimination of trees.”

Neighbors originally gath- ered at an informal meeting in the Mural Room at Town Hall on Tuesday, April 30 when state representative Josh Cut- ler held a discussion on the impact of tree cutting in the rights-of-way near the trans- mission power lines on the west side of Duxbury.

An important distinction to make, Cutler said, is that the tree-removal process in- volves transmission power lines, or high tension wires, not distribution lines, which are lines that run down resi- dential streets in Duxbury.

“This is a whole other magnitude different from what they’ve done in the past,” Cut- ler said.

Cutler explained that NStar was granted easements for the rights-of-way, sometimes dat- ing to the 1950s, which gives them the right to remove the trees. An easement is a right to cross or otherwise use some- one else’s land for a specified purpose. Easements that were granted to NStar as far back as 1950 follow the land and not the home or owner, so NStar has the legal right to cross the properties.

Cutler said he has looked into similar situations in Need- ham and Wayland in 2012, where both towns were able, with significant public pres- sure, to either stop the tree re- moval process or mitigate the situation.

NStar delivers electricity to approximately 1.1 million customers in 81 municipali-

ties and natural gas to approx- imately 300,000 customers in 51 municipalities. Electricity and natural gas is transmit- ted over hundreds of miles of distribution and transmis- sion rights-of-way throughout Massachusetts.

Town Manager Richard MacDonald asked Hayes if he was considering stopping the cutting on private property. He said he was not considering it.

Selectman Shawn Dahlen noted the major concerns that were apparent to him after the discussion. Because this is the first time tree removal of this magnitude has been done in Duxbury, Dahlen said, it is the requirement of the person to bring it forward.

“I would start with provid- ing the town with site plans, copies of easement languages and have a professional land surveyor state the exact loca- tion of the edge of the ease- ment,” he said. “I think the Board of Selectmen should take action and find out what we can do to open the door of communication with feedback from you saying you are will- ing to talk.”

Selectman Ted Flynn said the selectmen would work hard to figure out how to ei- ther negotiate with, or stop, NStar from moving forward in the tree removal process.

“All of these people are Duxbury residents who want to be your good neighbors,” Flynn said. “If you do not want to be their good neighbors and work with us, then we are go- ing to try to put the brakes on this.”