Trees saved temporarily

Eversource halts trimming after resident complaints

Telegraph photo by ADAM URQUHART Nashua police direct traffic around crews from Northern Tree Service, as they trim trees away from power lines along Nashua's Tinker Road Thursday afternoon. Northern is contracted by Eversource for the statewide Enhanced Tree Trimming program.

NASHUA – When Massachusetts contractors started chopping down trees in Nashua’s North End, nearby residents were not happy.

As it turns out, the contractors – employees of Northern Tree Service – were hired by Eversource to proactively remove trees the utility company considers threats to its electricity lines in the event of heavy ice or high winds.

Thursday, Eversource officials said the company agreed to temporarily halt the Enhanced Tree Trimming initiative. However, Eversource arborist Ian Farley maintains that any extensive branch trimming or removal of trees is done only “with the express permission of the property owners.

“We do not conduct this work without their permission,” Farley said, adding that Eversource provides detailed documents to homeowners explaining the program and describing the tree work Eversource recommends for their particular property.

That could range anywhere from a few small branches encroaching upon power lines to entire trees, especially less than healthy ones, and houses as well, when storms bring heavy snow, ice or high winds.

Mayor Jim Donchess’s office fielded a number of calls from concerned residents, many of whom live in or near the city’s residential North End, according to Kim Kleiner, the mayor’s chief of staff.

In some cases, residents said they found a notice regarding tree trimming left in their door, but weren’t sure which boxes to check.

“The form wasn’t really clear,” Kleiner said, adding that Donchess convened a meeting with Eversource officials and representatives of Northern Tree Service.

“They agreed to stop the work for now,” Kleiner said, adding that it was also discovered at the meeting that Northern Tree Service had applied for a permit, but started work before city officials approved it.

Farley, the Eversource arborist, said the matter was dealt with promptly.

“They understood … they said it wouldn’t happen again,” he said, referring to Northern Tree representatives.

Eversource has contracted with Northern Tree for a number of years, mainly for doing tree work in the southern half of New Hampshire, Farley said.

The work now going on is part of Eversource’s $44 million Enhanced Tree Trimming program, which will include trimming and hazardous tree removal along more than 2,700 miles of overhead power lines across the state.

Eversource spokeswoman Kaitlyn Woods said Farley and other arborists identify trees and branches that pose a threat to power lines “along the backbone of our system,” where a power outage would affect thousands of customers.

Farley said most of the people he heard from live near the work sites, and in driving past, some of them “weren’t happy” to see trees had been cut down.

Farley said he has begun reaching out to property owners who previously authorized tree trimming or removal “to confirm they gave their permission.”

Although he considers the information Eversource provides on the documents “pretty straightforward,” Farley said he decided to “do the right thing … and double check with the property owners.

“If anything isn’t clear on the signed documents, I will make sure it is,” he added.

Since the tree trimming program began, Woods said, the number of power outages from major storms has been cut in half, illustrating that identifying “problem” trees and branches and taking action is working.