Commission asks Mon Power to trim trees

The Upshur County Commission urged Mon Power to better care for its rights-of-way, stating in a letter to the company Thursday that power outages caused by two recent storms could have been avoided had trees been cleared from power lines.

The letter stated that the June derecho and October’s Superstorm Sandy resulted in residents being days without power. The letter stated much of the problem resulted from tree limbs falling across power lines

“In addition to the extreme temperatures and weather, the power outages caused by these storms resulted in even more dangerous situations,” the letter stated. “Downed power lines caused inaccessibility and cut off communication for sometimes 10 days or more. Trees fell on top of power lines, creating dangerous situations on roads, the potential of live wires being exposed at ground level and ‘widow makers’ hanging over roadways and sidewalks.”

Commissioners admitted in the letter that the situations were caused by “abnormally large storms,” but noted there is a continuing issue regarding the loss of power in certain areas of Upshur County. The commissioners, however, stated that if the rights-of-way were better maintained, “it would greatly minimize the damage and danger to Upshur County residents.

“The health and safety of our citizens is of paramount concern,” the letter continued. “We feel that their safety and quality of life is directly affected by some of these issues.”

Commissioner Buddy Brady did not sign the letter and declined to comment on the issue during the meeting. County Administrator Willie Parker said the other commissioners “thought it would be best if he remained neutral,” adding that Brady is involved in an ongoing matter with the utility company. Brady also abstained from voting on the letter’s approval.

Mon Power spokesman Todd Meyers said the company will be preparing a response to the commissioners’ letter, noting that the company has made a “very substantial investment in tree trimming.

“We understand Upshur County was hit very hard with the derecho and the (October) storm,” Meyers said. “But there is no vegetation or trimming program that could have prevented those damages.”

He explained that many of the outages were caused by trees not along the traditional rights-of-way, but were instead on private property. Mon Power crews must obtain the landowner’s permission before trimming those trees.

“Many of those off-right-of-way trees were blown down,” he said.

Meyers said crews are already at work in the southern portion of the county, trimming along 17 miles of line in the French Creek area. He said crews will be working along another 20-mile route in the coming days.

“We spent $30 million throughout West Virginia,” Meyers said of the trimming program. “We plan to spend even more than that this year.”