NB Power defends tree-trimming practices - Jan. 03, 2014
An NB Power employee from the Bathurst region removes branches that arched over onto power lines. A spokesperson for NB Power says a key challenge in the recent wide-spread outage lay with trees growing on private property.
budgets: $5.8 million set aside for tree and brush clearing in the year ahead
NB Power defends claims it, or the government, has skimped on the trimming of trees from power lines.
Many in the region suggested that cutbacks on tree-trimming were a key factor in the scope and magnitude of power outages that followed the Dec. 22-23 ice storm.
But Brent Staeben, on behalf of NB Power, said that the utility has actually increased its tree trimming budget in recent years.
“People may be thinking of the elimination by the government of employment programs that removed the roadside right-of-way,” he stated. That program, once administered by NB power, ended 10 years ago, said Staeben, and “has nothing whatsoever to do with this situation.”
The utility’s budget for tree trimming has “almost doubled” in the last seven years, with spending increasing to $5.8 million approved for 2014, said Staeben.
He said the program, as it stood 20 years ago, was overseen by those who had minimal relevant background, while now the utility uses the services of certified forest engineers, professional foresters and certified arborists.
“We also require that our contractors have at least one Certified Arborist on staff. This is a significant investment in expertise and recognition of the importance and value of the program,” stated Staeben.
He said NB Power systems and infrastructure — such as remote power lines — are simply not able to remain intact when struck by storms of the intensity and nature as befell the region Dec. 22-23.
“Our system infrastructure held up very well in what has turned out to be the most significant series of storms to impact the utility and our customers in decades – even larger than the ice storm of 1998,” said Staeben.
Budgets, he said, are not the challenge. Rather, customers prefer not to have NB Power crews or contractors “significantly impact the trees on their property.”
“So, it’s a balancing act for us as we are looking to work on homeowner’s property and wish to respect their wishes but our need is to protect our infrastructure,” said Staeben.
However, NB Power will take a strong second look at its brush-clearing practices in the weeks and months to come.
“With heightened understanding of why we need to do this, we’ll be hitting this effort hard this spring and summer and we now know we can expect support from our customers and local civic leaders with our efforts to protect the grid.”