Bridgewater residents tell state: Stay away from trees
KARA L. RICHARDSON Staff Writer, Courier News
June 21, 2007

BRIDGEWATER -- Some township residents, who now have a clear view of high-tension power lines, are protesting the state Board of Public Utilities' policy to cut trees that are under power lines.

Site of trees

Their directed ire has had an effect, as the process is temporarily on hold in response to township complaints.

Parvin Mirza Khan, who lives on Rolling Knolls Way, said a contractor for PSE&G came May 8 to cut the trees bordering her back yard. The trees were not as tall as the high-tension wires, she said.

"I asked, 'Why are you cutting down trees? They're not doing anything to the wires. Why are you cutting them now?'" she said.

According to Khan, the men explained that they were working under a new state rule mandating power companies to cut trees close to power lines.

The workers then continued cutting the trees down to the stumps after she argued with them, Khan said.

"The back yard is completely destroyed. All the trees are gone. It's like a tornado went through," she said.

Khan is rallying neighbors and township officials against the Board of Public Utilities' vegetation management policy.

The vegetation management policy will be reviewed in August, said Doyal Siddell, a Board of Public Utilities spokesman.

The trees behind Rolling Knolls Way were in an utility easement that runs through the township's Green Acres property.

The township fielded several complaints from neighbors, said township Administrator Jim Naples. Mayor Patricia Flannery met with about six residents and a representative from the Board of Public Utilities.

When the neighbors were not satisfied with the meeting's outcome, Flannery sent a letter to the Board of Public Utilities, asking for a clarification of the vegetation management policy.

"Until those rules are made clear, don't do any more cutting," Naples said, paraphrasing Flannery's letter.

"The mayor wants to ensure the residents' rights are protected," Naples said. "It is pretty dramatic when they cut down all that vegetation."

In addition to the concerns in Bridgewater, at least six complaints about tree cutting in Branchburg were made earlier this month. On June 6, between Preston Drive and Sharon Avenue, township resident Lori Dodd chained herself to a tree until police told her she would be arrested.

Jennifer Kramer, a PSE&G spokeswoman, said the utility will defer tree removal until later this year in Bridgewater to accommodate residents' concerns.

Kramer said PSE&G is working under a Board of Public Utilities mandate to remove trees that have the ability to grow more than 3 feet tall beneath high-voltage power lines and trees that have the ability to grow more than 15 feet tall on the edge of the power company's right of way.

Kramer said PSE&G will work with township officials to provide them a list of trees that could be planted in the right-of-way.

The leading cause of power outages is "tree contact," when a tree branch touches a power line, Kramer said. In fact, a contributing factor to the blackout in August 2003, which darkened much of the Northeast, was a "tree contact" in Ohio, she said.

"That 2003 blackout was a real lesson in how critical it is for there to be proper clearance in transmission right-of-ways. Having those right-of-ways is critical to our ability to deliver safe and reliable service this summer," Kramer said.

She said the more power that surges through a power line, the more the line can sag -- and some lines can sag as much as 18 feet, she said.

* On the Web

To learn more about the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities' vegetation management policies, go to

Kara L. Richardson can be reached at (908) 707-3186 or