Plan to cull problem trees

Call it a cutting-edge proposal for dealing with falling trees that cause blackouts.
Following a proposal by Langford Mayor Stew Young sparked by the recent spate of power outages, the municipality is looking to include $50,000 in the 2007 budget to deal with trees that pose a risk for knocking down hydro lines.
The scheme would involve Langford engineering and planning staff working with B.C. Hydro, arborists and Langford Fire Rescue to identify what trees on municipal and private land have the potential to damage power lines in areas where outages are a recurring problem, said Langford deputy administrator Jim Bowden.
“We want to see if it’s possible to trim trees in areas where this reoccurs to reduce the number of outages,” Bowden said. “If the trees are on private property, we would work with the property owners to obtain their co-operation.”
Following preliminary discussions with Langford last week, B.C. Hydro said it would match the $50,000 to carry out the work.
“This is the first time I’m aware of a municipality approaching B.C. Hydro (with this type of proposal),” said company spokesperson Stephen Watson. “What Langford is doing is taking it to the next level, and that’s great to see. We would be very pleased to partner with Langford on vegetation management to tackle problem areas.”
B.C. Hydro spends millions of dollars on vegetation management on Vancouver Island, Watson noted. The budget has gone up, and within that, Hydro tries to work with property owners and municipalities to remove hazardous trees to increase reliability and public safety, Watson said.
“We’re not suggesting removing a bunch of trees, but identifying trees that pose the most risk,” Watson said. “We’ll work with Langford to identify particularly hard-hit areas, and seek co-operation from homeowners to safely remove the trees.”
Bowden said Langford is “very excited” about B.C. Hydro’s offer to match the $50,000, and called it a win-win situation.
Involving Langford fire rescue personnel would be helpful in identifying problem areas, as they have a good idea of some of the hot spots, Bowden said.
From an emergency co-ordinator’s standpoint, any effort to mitigate these types of situations is a step in the right direction, said Langford fire chief Bob Beckett.
“For some people, not having a hot shower or TV for a few days is merely an inconvenience,” he said. “But for seniors or people with disabilities it can pose significant challenges.”
While Beckett says the initiative won’t eliminate the problems associated with power outages, it can reduce the frequency and duration.
“During the most recent storm, we had multiple trees down in one block pulling lines down,” he noted. “If we can eliminate the potential for knocking out grids, we can reduce the amount of time B.C. Hydro has to spend dealing with these situations.”
Langford Fire Rescue is aware of problematic areas because they have to go to them on a regular basis, he added.
The $50,000 proposal would be part of the 2007 budget process, Bowden said, pointing out that Langford council gave unanimous approval to the initiative at the Dec. 18 council meeting.
The money would go toward the cost of tree trimming and arborist assessments.