Guest Column: ComEd should be held accountable for clear-cutting of DeKalb Nature Trail

April 10, 2013

Remains of trees and shrubs at the DeKalb Nature Trail. (Photo provided)

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent by Angela M. Bollinger to state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, regarding clear-cutting of trees on the DeKalb Nature Trail.

Senator Syverson,

A representative from your office spoke this morning to my father, Marv Levinsky, in regards to the DeKalb Nature Trail. As a result of that conversation, I am sending the following information.

1. Recap of the situation (below).

2. Letter sent out by ComEd mid-November to property owners with utility easements.

3. Letter sent out by ComEd Dec. 10, 2012, talking about herbicide use.

4. Letter sent out by ComEd to the Park District dated Jan. 9, 2013.

5. Approximate timeline of events.

6. Pictures of the nature trail before and after the clear-cutting.

If you should need any additional information or have any questions on the information contained herein, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Angela M. Bollinger

Recap of the situation

In late November and early December, Commonwealth Edison descended on the DeKalb Nature Trail (Illinois Prairie Path) and effectively clear cut the entire north side of the trail running below Commonwealth Edison’s power lines. This work was done quickly. The trail, which once provided this community with a clear connection to nature, has been destroyed. Within a week-and-a-half, Commonwealth Edison’s contractors (Asplundh) clear cut approximately 7.5 to 8 acres of land, removing thousands of trees, shrubs and various other plantings. What was a thriving ecosystem is now simply a bare patch of land and stumps.

This work was done without the public’s knowledge or approval. Letters were sent out to residents that have easements along their properties informing them of Commonwealth Edison’s intentions to perform “pruning and vegetation management.” This letter was clearly an attempt by Commonwealth Edison to downplay the actual work that was going to happen. It was deceptive and, ultimately, not truthful. In addition to this, Commonwealth Edison made no attempts to inform the remaining citizens of DeKalb that do not live adjacent to the Nature Trail of the impending work.

The letter from Commonwealth Edison, as well as the verbal statements from ComEd representatives at the Dec. 6 Park District meeting, indicated that the work being done was part of a federal mandate to ensure power service not be disrupted during major storm events. What the letter and representatives failed to indicate was that the power lines running adjacent to the nature trail do not fall under federal jurisdiction. (The lines that run adjacent to the nature trail are 138kv. To fall under the federal jurisdiction, they need to be above 200kv). This, again, is a clear indication of Commonwealth Edison’s attempts to deceive this community. The Jan. 9, 2013, letter to the Park District admits this fact, even though all previous interactions with ComEd indicated the latter.

The federal mandate that Commonwealth Edison claimed gave them the right to clear cut what essentially is a park/nature preserve was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Within this mandate, the FERC references the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) standards. The IEEE standards referenced within the mandate specifically address the air clearances to be maintained around power lines. This standard is quite complex and factors in not only the type and voltage of the line, but also the effects of thermal movement, growth rate of each species of tree and maintenance schedules. What is clear, even from a lay person’s point of view, is that these standards, and more specifically the FERC, do not condone clear cutting. While we can all agree that power is a vital necessity to our society and our everyday lives, it is abundantly clear that Commonwealth Edison went above and beyond what is necessary for them to provide us with safe and reliable power. They deceived this community, and should be held accountable for that.

From the April 10-16, 2013, issue

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