Bridgewater Towhship draft plus comments submitted by residents.  

Jeanne Fox
Board of Public Utilities
Two Gateway Center
Newark, NJ 07102
Dear Commissioners:

On behalf of the residents of Bridgewater Township I submit the following comments regarding the revision to N.J.A.C. 14:5-9 Electric Service – Vegetation Management. These comments are submitted in order to protect the property rights of adjoining and surrounding residents while maintaining the safety and reliability of electric distribution. The BPU has identified eight areas of focus for comments to be submitted, please find our comments below:


  1. The treatment of trees within the border zone in transmission rights of way. This has been a critical aspect of the concerns we have heard from residents affected by the utility clear cutting of all trees and vegetation within the border zone. The Township has previously prepared and submitted to the Board a report from a utility safety expert which outlines the ability for trees and vegetation to exist safely in the border zone without jeopardizing the reliability of electric service. I have attached the report for your review.

  2. The requirements for notice to customers and property owners. The utility must provide prior written notice to any property owner whose property directly adjoins the electric transmission right of way. This notice to property owners include the following minimum requirements; must be sent certified mail to insure receipt, must include relevant contact information so that the property owner may have the ability to ask questions and obtain related information, must be received one month prior to any scheduled activity; copies of all letters to be filed with the Municipal Clerk or Administrator; must include contact information at BPU for appeal so that the property owner can be reasonably assured that an independent third-party can verify the utility determination if there is disagreement.

  3. A consideration for commercial agricultural interests with low-growing cultivated trees in an accessible right of way. No comment

  4. Treatment of invasive and non-indigenous species. PENDING

  5. Environmental issues that may involve the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, such as the application of herbicides. If herbicides are to be used the regulations should stipulate when applicable and that all safety and human health concerns with their use has been verified and confirmed by the BPU. Residents should be made aware of the types of herbicides and any related hazards that are being applied to their land; as the land is still theirs, these are only easements.

    In addition to the application of herbicides this section should include the negative impacts of stormwater runoff that is created when the utility clear cuts vegetation within the border zone. It should be incumbent on the utility to restore the decimated area with acceptable growth that will retain the stormwater control aspects of water absorption and allow for reliable electric transmission. All relevant standards and regulations regarding soil erosion are to met by the utility when removing trees from the border zone. Replanting and regrading necessary to achieve this goal should be conducted with the consent of the property owner.

  6. Resolution of concerns raised regarding vegetation management in the Pinelands Area. No Comment.

  7. A review of differences between State standards and Federal NERC FAC 003-1. PENDING.

  8. Certification requirements for vegetation managers in New Jersey. In addition to certification requirements for utilities we request that the utility be made to certify to the property owner and the municipality that the vegetation scheduled to be removed is not ornamental, historic, or indigenous and otherwise exempt from vegetation management standards. The utility should be made to document and file with the Board of Public Utilities a certification that they have verified that no such exempt trees exist in the areas where they are scheduled to conduct such activities.

In addition we ask that there be language inserted in the rules which addresses the property owners' ability to seek reimbursement from the utility should the utility erroneously remove trees or vegetation that should not otherwise have been removed. This would include the submission of evidence and testimony to an independent third-party for resolution. To supplement the existing regulations we require that a detailed policy be included in the regulations that will determine what a property owner would receive in compensation for trees that have been removed erroneously by the utility.

Without remedies for removal or damages to property there is no incentive for the utilities to adhere to any rules or guidelines. Additionally , records should be kept to track the number of claims and complaints, as a matter of public record , to ensure fair treatment to all parties. Without metrics you can not track or manage in an objective and professional manner.