The Greenwich Tree Conservancy

By: By JoAnn Messina, Executive Director

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The Greenwich Tree Conservancy is a non-profit group of over 1000 supporters whose mission is to preserve and enhance Greenwich’s urban forest to benefit the community. We are writing to underscore the need for a mix of hard and natural sound barriers and a documented vegetation plan to be adopted before road work commences on this project.

CTDOT has a responsibility to do no further harm, and to work with the Town of Greenwich and community stakeholders to mitigate the damage to our roadside forests that has been done in recent years. A century ago, a Connecticut native Gifford Pinchot was named the first Director of the National Forest Service, and he founded the first American Forestry School at Yale. In those early days, it was recognized that trees offered a sense of place, an appeal to tourists and increased property values. We need to apply those criteria to the Greenwich Gateway to Connecticut.

Unfortunately, clear cutting, whether for maintenance or road improvements, has been the favored vegetative management strategy along transportation corridors throughout the State. This management approach is inconsistent with the goals of the recent Governor’s Council on Climate Change report: Taking Action on Climate Change and Building a More Resilient Connecticut for All, which recognizes the importance of protecting and enhancing our forests for both climate mitigation and adaptation/resiliency benefits.

Trees provide many ecosystem and health benefits including purifying air, filtering water which flows into Long Island Sound, the sequestration of atmospheric carbon, enhanced nutrient cycling that promotes biodiversity, and also road noise reduction. Trees act as noise barriers through a phenomenon called sound attenuation, which is the damping of sound. Trees attenuate noise by absorption, deflection, refraction, and masking. Tree parts such as stems, leaves, branches, and wood absorb sound waves. Broadleaf trees are most effective at deflecting sound. However, when broadleaf trees drop their leaves in winter, the sound barrier is lost. Evergreen trees provide a consistent buffer against sound because they keep their needles or leaves across seasons. Evergreens are also fast-growing and can be planted close together, which creates a denser vegetation barrier. So, layering a mix of various species will provide long-term noise reduction results.

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Roadside Revegetation: An Integrated Approach to Establishing Native Plants 2007 manual presents a thorough guide and notes:
Where modification and increased capacity are needed, ecological health, safety, and efficient transport should not be seen as mutually exclusive goals. Understanding roadside environments, how they interface with adjoining lands, and how to minimize environmental impacts has become a key focus of the Federal Highway Administration (Fekaris 2006). Given political will and proper levels of attention, integration of environmental concerns with transportation can result in significant gains.
https://highways.dot.gov/federal-lands/design/library/roadside-revegetation

We urge you to apply the same strong leadership to ensure that State actions on state land are consistent with climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Successful vegetation management mitigates risk while ensuring that our urban forests are conserved, restored, and made more resilient. Many residents speak to their experience of moving to Connecticut because of the beauty they have seen in their daily commutes, removing this vegetation undermines this quality of life.

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy agrees that there are various methods of noise abatement and this project may require sound barriers, combining hardscape and greenscape solutions. We need to take a multilayered approach in Connecticut to increase the benefits of a “No-Net-Loss” healthy natural roadside environment.
As CTDOT develops its landscape design specs we would like to include the following requests:
• REVIEW MANUAL: CTDOT should review the FHA U.S. DOT ROADSIDE REVEGETATION AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO ESTABLISHING NATIVE PLANTS Manual.
https://highways.dot.gov/sites/fhwa.dot.gov/files/docs/federal-lands/design/library/26841/roadside revegetation-manual.pdf
• REVIEW SITE PLANS: Based on the UTC results, the I-95 reforestation plan should be completed, and reviewed by the Town of Greenwich before work begins, to ensure the plans are consistent with both Greenwich and Connecticut’s current environmental goals and standards.
• DETERMINE SOIL QUALITY: Soil samples must be included in the planting plans to determine soil quality. Based on the soil findings, the appropriate fertilizer must be used to ensure trees will thrive. • DBH & HEIGHT: Trees should have a minimum DBH of 3-4 inch caliper.
• NOISE REDUCTION PLANT SPECIES: Year-round noise reduction requires a mix of evergreen, deciduous, and broadleaf trees, and a combination of evergreens such as arborvitaes, spruces, pines and hollies. To be effective sound barriers, these trees must have foliage that reaches to the ground. Trees must be densely planted in staggered rows to decrease noise.
• ABUTTING NEIGHBORS & NEIGHBORHOODS: Trees should be planted in front of sound barriers to further decrease noise and create a sense of place, and behind sound barriers to provide larger canopies that can provide lush skyscapes and shade for abutting and sometimes under-resourced residents and property owners.
• SETTING CANOPY GOALS: “Establishing a Tree Canopy goal is crucial for communities seeking to improve their green infrastructure. A Tree Canopy assessment is the first step in this goal-setting process, providing estimates for the amount of tree canopy currently present in a municipality as well as the amount of tree canopy that could theoretically be established.”
• SURVIVAL AND REPLANTING: Monitoring and management is required to assess the effectiveness of the revegetation project. Monitoring the density of live plants following the first and third year after planting will determine if they have survived and whether the site will need to be replanted.
• VISIONARY DESIGN: A visionary design for the CT Gateway must emphasize the rich environmental assets that we have here in our beautiful state while protecting the quality of life for our residents.

The Federal Highway Administration Revegetation manual notes: “As roads are modified or updated section by section, a tremendous opportunity presents itself to remedy the oversights of the past, mitigating environmental impacts and improving conditions for healthy ecosystems.

Connecticut is filled with beauty, let travelers see trees and vegetation that store carbon, clean our air, provide flood control, provide pollinator pathways, respite for migrating birds, and mitigate noise. The repair project on I-95 is an opportunity create a vision for our State’s future by rebuilding better, together!

Greenwich Tree Conservancy Puts the Green in Outdoor Dining on the Ave

Letter submitted by JoAnn Messina, Executive Director, Greenwich Tree Conservancy

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy applauds the Board of Selectmen and numerous departments within Greenwich government for creating a pedestrian and outdoor dining area at the lower end of Greenwich Avenue.The Tree Conservancy partners with many of these departments including the town Tree Division of Parks and Recreation, the Department of PublicWorks and most recently the Planning and Zoning Commission.

In addition to these departments, the Police and Fire Departments were also part of the planning effort to ensure a smooth and safe transition to a pedestrian mall.

We are proud to be part of this initiative by gifting the town 15 Crape Myrtle trees that have been planted in planters along the Avenue and later will be planted along town roads.

Greenwich is fortunate to have governmental officials who support the Tree Conservancy’s mission to plant, preserve and protect our urban forest which benefits our real estate values as well as our health and well-being.Projects such as greening town parking lots, labeling trees to create our Town Arboretum, plantings at schools for Arbor Day celebrations and our Treasured Trees program, assist in this mission.

Let us continue to unite in future efforts to preserve and enhance Greenwich’s urban forest.

Sincerely,
JoAnn Messina, Executive Director

New Haven Register

Environmentalists, legislators,residents fight against UItrimming, removing trees

Clare Dignan Jan. 11, 2020 HAMDEN

treework

A crew from Lewis Tree Service cut down a large sycamore tree during United Illuminatingtree trimming and removal on Grovers Avenue in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport in2015.
Photo: Hearst Connecticut Media file

HAMDEN — Environmental groups, legislators and residents all areobjecting to United Illuminating’s program aimed at trimming orremoving trees without consent from towns or residents.Under UI’s standard tree pruning/removal program — Utility

Protection Zone work — a property owner has the right to object totree work or ask to modify it, but the utility can remove the tree ifthe property owner doesn’t object, provided the utility has therequired permit from the municipality’s tree warden.

However, the law gives flexibility to utility companies to addresstrees coming into contact with wires or ones that show signs of burning.

State statute allows a utility company to forgo the permit requirement and notification to property owners when pruning orremoving a tree “if any part of a tree is in direct contact with anenergized electrical conductor or has visible signs of burning.

”The electric company, a subsidiary of Avangrid, cites the statute ona door hanger used specifically for these cases — the Targeted RiskManagement program — which it began in January of last year,according to Avangrid spokesman Ed Crowder.

UI’s standardvegetation management notification package includes options forconsent, objection and modification.Many objecting to the TRM program said the practice underminesthe municipal tree warden’s authority and doesn’t follow the spiritor intention of the exception.In letters to the state’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority — whichoversees the rates and services of utilities, hears complaints andreviews compliance — many are asking the agency stop UI fromimplementing the TRM program.“It takes away the right of the tree warden and the town to have anysay in what happens to our trees,” Hamden Alliance for Trees

member Diane Hoffman said.

State Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said in commentssubmitted to PURA that as one of the legislators primarilyresponsible for crafting the statute, the intent of the “directcontact” language wasn’t to allow utilities to circumvent notifyingproperty owners and tree wardens.

D’Agostino, along with state Reps. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, andJosh Elliot, D-Hamden, told PURA in a letter that the agencyshouldn’t allow UI to implement the program without evaluation orapproval since it’s intended for emergency situations.

“UI should not be the sole decider on tree removal withoutconsulting with tree wardens, town leaders or residents,” they saidin their letter. “UI has economic interest in removing as many treesas possible as quickly as possible, but this interest should not be thesole determining factor. The public also has an interest in bothaccess to reliable electricity as well as the benefits of having asmany healthy trees in their community as possible.

”Hamden recently ordered UI to stop all vegetation managementbecause of resident concerns.

No Tree Warden Oversight

Hamden’s consulting arborist Geoff Harris said the town wouldprefer to have eyes on all tree work. Harris said UI’s right toperform the work doesn’t mean it is doing so everywhere, but he’sskeptical.“They’re good guys trying to do the job correctly and the problemwe’re having is they have a limb on a wire and they want to do 8-10-

15 (clearance pruning), and if they want to do that they have to talkto me,” he said. “I want to be able to see the tree first and that’s thebottom line.”

Harris said the new specifications have caused a problem in whichcrews are asked to trim everything in utility protection zone, whichisn’t a good arborist practice.

Fairfield Tree Warden Jeff Minder said trees are part of a town’sinfrastructure and especially important to Fairfield. If utilities arepruning without consultation of a municipality’s arborist, the crewcould be leaving the tree aesthetically unappealing or structurallyunhealthy, he said.

“We definitely welcome the trimming program but we’d like it to betransparent,” Minder said. Without consultation with residents ortree wardens, UI will set the pruning standard and do what’snecessary to get the line clearance, he said.

Minder said he doesn’t have reason to believe that they’ll only trimwhat’s necessary and if they take to much, the tree will suffer.

As a full-time tree warden, Minder makes a point to walk with theidentifying crews during their regular circuits — and each time, theypropose a lot of work that Minder said isn’t necessary.

“They have one goal in mind — it’s to get utility line clearance,” hesaid. “They don’t care about neighborhood aesthetics, if your houseis in full sun all day, if there’s erosion on roadsides. These things arewhat a tree warden has to look at.”

David Goodson, UI’s director of vegetation management, told PURAthey send crews out to prune trees to a “four-year clearance” of 8 feet to the side, 10 feet below, and 15 feet overhead.

Fairfield has been a designated Tree City USA for nearly 32 years, arecognition of the city’s tree stewardship and urban foresteducation. In 2019 when UI rolled out TRM, Minder said they didn’tpropose any regular tree trimming, but wanted to do 24 miles ofTRM work, which the town refused.

“We’re not against UPZ (Utility Protection Zone) or direct contactprogram,” Minder said. “It needs to take place, but you need toinclude the tree warden.

”Mary Hogue, chairwoman of the Fairfield Forestry Committee, saidshe’s concerned that two customer rate increases have beenapproved specifically for tree trimming, yet Fairfield ratepayersdidn’t see any scheduled work done last year.“We’re convinced the work needs to happen and that there areplenty of roadside trees that need to be removed,” she said. “Thetree trimming needs to happen and is essential, but it needs to bedone with an arborist’s eye.”

Vegetation Management

Crowder said UI is simply trying to prevent hazards before theybecome problems.

“When we see a danger spot, we address it instead of waiting forthe next trim cycle.” he said. “We have an obligation to provide safeand reliable service.”

Last year, UI did TRM work on about 285 miles of distributioncircuit out of about 3,500 miles, prioritizing circuits with poor

reliability performance farthest away from scheduled routinemanagement, he said.

When asked why the utility is proposing this work withoutconsulting with the tree wardens, Crowder said, “We haveobligation to maintain the safety and reliability of our system andour customers expect us to do that on an ongoing basis.”

Crowder said crews are not taking down trees under this program.In January 2014, UI began the Utility Protection Zone program toestablish a clearance zone extending 8 feet horizontally andground-to-sky vertically around all of its primary distribution lines,according to the last vegetation management plan submitted toPURA. The authority approved $100 million for the 8-yearvegetation management plan, which was piloted in Hamden,Milford, Orange and Shelton.Then the authority approved a $162 million, 12-year plan, extendingthe program to 2025. UI said the increase was needed to fund theescalating costs of municipal traffic control, the consent andobjection process and rising costs of tree work.In UI’s vegetation management report to PURA, the utility saidcompliance with the legislation governing tree trimmingnotifications “has a negative impact on crew productivity andschedule completion because of the disruption it causes to the planand subsequent flow of work.”Utilities are allowed to pass along tree-trimming costs to ratepayersif they can prove to PURA the expenses are justified.

Outage Resiliency

Crowder said UI has seen consistently strong results in reductionsof outages over time.“We’re proud of UI’s excellent record of reliability, which ranks nearthe top in our industry,” he said. “This reflects UI’s proactiveapproach to upgrading and maintaining its system, including itsrobust vegetation management program.”UI circuits that have undergone UPZ clearance show a 65 percentimprovement — fewer interruptions — in day-to-day reliability from2015 through 2018, compared with just 9 percent improvement forthose that did not undergo UPZ clearance.Crowder said he didn’t know of customer satisfaction surveyscollected on tree work.

Benfits of an Urban Forest

Street trees can provide benefits far beyond neighborhoodbeautification, according to the Arbor Day foundation. Trees canprovide energy savings for heating and cooling, tame stormwaterrunoff, mitigate erosion and combat climate change.Hoffman said trees are one of the main nature-based solutions tothe climate crisis.Yale School of Forestry Urban Resources Initiative Director ColleenMurphy-Dunning works hand-in-hand with New Haven to plantmore street trees with consideration of species diversity, ecologicalbenefits and utility line safety.They plant about 500 trees every year in the city, employing theRight Tree Right Place practice that involves planting smaller,

ornamental trees under utility lines that won’t grow too tall whenfully mature. Across the street from utility lines they can plant tallershade trees so that they avoid the conflict cities have today withutilities, she said.“The practice has been Right Tree Right Place, but there are treesthat are tall and healthy planted under the lines and it’s OK,” shesaid. “If you have healthy tall trees they bring so much benefit.”Beyond beautification, URI estimates that New Haven’s street treessave the city about $4 million per year.

An appeal to PURA

Others in UI’s service territory are equally concerned. TheGreenwich Tree Conservancy, a local nonprofit that promotes thepreservation and enhancement of the tree and forest resources,oppose the program “because it offers convenience toConnecticut’s utilities at the expense of citizens, local publicofficials and our communities.”Eric Hammerling, Connecticut Forest & Park Association executivedirector, served as chairman of the State Vegetation ManagementTask Force and said the program would circumvent the publicnotice requirement that ensures vegetation management workconsiders landowner and community interests.Hammerling said when legislators discussed amendments to thelaw, utility companies asked to include the direct contact provisionso they could quickly respond to emergency situations. He said themeasure made sense at the time to everyone, but with the TRMprogram, UI appears to be using an intended ‘emergency measure’

as the basis for much of its planned work in some of its territory.Crowder said the utility considers an emergency to be when thelights are out or there are live wires on the ground.“We don’t want to wait for that to happen,” he said. “The statuteallows UI to address these threats proactively and expediently aspart of its obligation to provide safe and reliable service.”mdignan@hearstmediact.com