Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts

OFFICE OF THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN AND TOWN MANAGER

To:     Duxbury residents
From:   Board of Selectmen
Re:     NSTAR Electric Company Vegetation Management Plan
Date:   May 21, 2013
 

Dear Residents:

As you may know, NSTAR Electric Company intends to conduct maintenance work on its rights–of-way throughout the Town pursuant to a Vegetation Management Plan filed with, and approved by, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.  This letter informs you of the results of recent meetings held by the Board of Selectmen regarding that work.

Many years ago, NSTAR acquired a series of easements across Duxbury to establish rights-of-way for high-voltage transmission lines.  These lines carry electricity over long distances in order to provide power to the region and eventually deliver power to individual homes in the Duxbury area.  These rights-of-way, which were developed to provide corridors for the construction and maintenance of these lines, span 210 feet wide, running across many private properties across the Town.

NSTAR’s Proposed Work

NSTAR intends to conduct the following activities pursuant to its Vegetation Management Plan:

The Wire Zone:  For 10 feet to each side of the transmission lines, NSTAR intends to remove all trees and other plants that may eventually grow taller than 3 feet.  Low growing compatible plant species will be preserved.

The Border Zone:  From the 10-foot lines out to the edges of the easement, NSTAR intends to remove all trees and other plants that may eventually grow taller than 15 feet.  Low growing compatible plant species will be preserved.

Herbicides:  NSTAR intends to selectively apply federally- and state-approved herbicides along the rights-of-way between June and December 31, 2014.  If there are sensitive water resources that NSTAR has not identified, the Town may identify them and NSTAR will adjust its herbicide applications accordingly.

The Process

Residents and Town leaders have expressed concern about NSTAR’s clearing, as well as its application of herbicides near sensitive water resources.  On May 6 and 16, the Board of Selectmen held public meetings with NSTAR and residents to discuss those concerns.

NSTAR believes that, under its easements, it has the right to conduct all the proposed work without further property owners’ consent.  Nevertheless, it has agreed to meet with each property owner along the rights-of-way to attempt to reach an agreement on the following issues:

1.      NSTAR’s clearing.   NSTAR is willing to review the limits of the clearing and its distance from the transmission lines, its proximity to the property owner’s house or other buildings, the selectivity of the tree-cutting, and the preservation of certain compatible trees and other plants.  NSTAR maintains that all incompatible tree species within the easement have to be removed, but they will discuss which trees are incompatible with the property owner.  NSTAR also is willing to leave the logs resulting from its tree removals for the owner, if requested.

2.      Re-planting by NSTAR.  NSTAR has agreed to stump-grind, loam and seed any cleared areas that are currently landscaped (lawns or mulched areas).  It also is willing to discuss reasonable re-planting of trees and other plants of approved species in the Border Zone by NSTAR.

3.      Re-planting by the property owners.  NSTAR is willing to consider re-planting by the property owners of approved species of trees and other plants in the Border Zone.  If NSTAR agrees to any such plantings, it will use reasonable efforts to avoid damaging them in future clearing or herbicide applications.

4.      Mitigation List.  After any meetings with property owners, NSTAR will create a Mitigation List of the properties where it is willing to provide reasonable replanting of trees, as a result of the impact on a specific property.  This list will include any properties where NSTAR has agreed to provide mitigation as the result of meeting with property owners and any additional properties where NSTAR believes mitigation is appropriate.  NSTAR will share the list with the Selectmen prior to any cutting.  Once the tree removals are completed, NSTAR will reach out to each of the property owners on the list individually to develop a planting plan to complete the mitigation. NSTAR will hire one of its landscape vendors to implement the plan.

The Town’s Tree Warden or Conservation Agent will be available to attend meetings between property owners and NSTAR to facilitate the discussions to the extent possible.  Any property owner who would like to meet with NSTAR as described above should call Dennis Galvam at (508) 732-4206 to request such a meeting.  If you do not call to request a meeting, you will not be placed on the meeting list.

The Schedule

NSTAR intended to start mowing in early June in preparation for the clearing, and to start clearing in July.  However, it has agreed to delay the mowing until June 15 to accommodate the process described above.  The Board of Selectmen expects both the owners and NSTAR to work diligently and in good faith to meet and negotiate agreement on the issues described above within those four weeks.  However, it also expects that, if the parties are working together in good faith and making progress, NSTAR’s scheduled mowing may begin, while remaining discussions/meetings are held, or the schedule may be extended as appropriate.

Conclusion

The Selectmen hope that the meetings they have held, and the anticipated meetings and discussions between NSTAR and the property owners, will result in agreement regarding NSTAR’s work in Duxbury.  The Board stands ready to assist and facilitate those discussions in any way it can.  Of course, property owners are also free to consult their own counsel regarding NSTAR’s easement rights on their properties.