Trees Are Coming Down

Tree-trimming work has begun in Montauk to meet new clearance standards for power transmission lines. PSEG Long Island has contracted the work to private companies. Janis Hewitt

       When a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? You bet it does, when it happens in environmentally friendly Montauk.

       PSEG Long Island, the company that took over from the Long Island Power Authority on Jan. 1, has started what it calls an “aggressive” project to remove trees and branches that could obstruct power lines across 2,600 miles of Long Island.

       Sue Farnham, a Montauk resident who walks several times a week through the park at Camp Hero, said she couldn’t believe what she was seeing there. “I was shocked when I saw them cutting down the trees. I just don’t understand the severity of it,” she said. “Did they even consult with arborists?”

       “Absolutely,” said Jeffrey Weir, a PSEG spokesman. Power outages are more often caused by tree and branch interference than anything else, he said, and PSEG has made it its mission in 2014 to take an aggressive approach to trim and sometimes cut to the ground what it considers to be “at risk” trees.

       “I think it’s horrible,” said a state park employee at Camp Hero, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak. “But I know they got permission. We checked it all out.”

       The electric utility is trying to create a buffer to prevent limbs from falling on the lines, said Mr. Weir. It is increasing the current 6-foot clearance to 8 feet from the power lines, 12 feet above them, and 10 feet below, which is PSEG’s current standard level, said Mr. Weir.

       The work in Montauk, which will continue through the next couple of weeks, will also include neighborhood trees. Mr. Weir said the company has taken steps to alert homeowners by sending out letters, directing people to its website, pseglinycom, and leaving notifications on front doors.

       “It’s a major change for our customers and may take some time to get used to, but it’s all about improving the system and keeping the power lines clear, said Mr. Weir.

       The companies doing the work, all licensed contractors, include Asplundh Tree Trimming, Harder Services, IPC Contracting, and Lewis Tree Service.