NStar, selectmen, residents look for solutions

In attempt to find a solution or method of mitigation, the Board of Selectmen met with NStar representatives, town counsel and neighborhood representatives Thursday morning to discuss the imminent tree removal.

NStar arborist Bill Hayes, NStar director of vegetation management Vera Admore, Bill Van Dam, director of credit collections for NStar, discussed mitigation that has occurred in other towns with similar situations to Duxbury and heard from residents about their concerns.

Ward Kramer, neighborhood representative from Mallard’s Cove, said the residents acknowledged the necessity of vegetation management in and around the transmission lines and the rights-of-way (ROW). His main concern, he said, was to ensure the actions were done in the public interest.

“No one will deny that there needs to be a balance,” Kramer said. “Nobody would debate the point that uninterrupted electrical power is not in the best public interest, but we are also the public and we must consider the environmental impact.”

Kramer said what residents are most looking for is for NStar to do selective removal of the trees instead of clear cutting up to the easement line.

Hayes walked through the process of the tree removal, starting with the notification to the town and community members, through leaving notification cards on impacted resident’s front steps, to meeting with individual homeowners.

“The Integrated Vegetation Management program involves mechanical control, herbicide control and natural control,” Hayes said. “Tree removal is the mechanical part and that is why we are here now.”

Selectman Shawn Dahlen asked Hayes whether homeowners are allowed to cut trees within the easement by themselves, instead of letting NStar remove the trees.

“One of the things I believe a resident feels in this situation is that they are out of control,” Dahlen said. “I’m trying to put together an alternative, one that I believe they have a perfect right to do.”

Homeowners have that ability, Hayes said, but he would have to visit the property to make sure the homeowners were not putting themselves in danger or compromising the safety of the transmission lines.

“I know what you are say- ing but I can’t say I completely agree,” Hayes said. “I would put that up through the legal and safety departments.”

Dahlen also asked Hayes if residents could plant species that are acceptable and compatible within the NStar easement.

“I’m looking for a buffer, a way residents can protect themselves today and in the future,” Dahlen said. “If they plant a species that is on the published list as acceptable, we encourage that,” Hayes said. “Ultimately they can plant whatever they want, but if it is not compatible, it will be at risk. If residents go to a reputable nursery and let them know of the restrictions, the people at the nursery will be able to give them the right species to work with.”

Town Counsel Art Krieger, after listening to each of the sides, presented his view of the best method for figuring out a solution. From what he understood, there were several issues, he said.

“A major issue, it appears to me, is the quality of communication,” Krieger said. “What I haven’t heard is any discussion on whether the one-on-one meetings could determine what trees could stay.”

Among other major issues Krieger pointed out was the process of meeting with homeowners and pitting neighbors against each other. Necessary actions moving forward include having NStar commit to meeting with neighbors who called and asked for a meeting one-on-one, and answering critical questions about what species NStar will replant and what species homeowners are allowed to replant.

The representatives sat down after the meeting with Krieger to draft a letter to send to residents outlining NStar’s commitments from the meeting.