West BloomfieldDecember 11, 2013
Parks and Rec confirms ITC won’t work on trail until 2014
By Cari DeLamielleure-Scott
C & G Staff Writer
WEST BLOOMFIELD — Aug. 14, 2013, marked the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Northeast blackout where 50 million people lost power. It started with a simple tree branch landing on electrical wires in Ohio, causing an outage that cascaded from Michigan to New England and parts of Canada.
That domino effect is why the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission aims at maintaining a positive relationship with the electric company ITC when it comes to the upkeep of the nature trail in the township, said Daniel Navarre, director of Parks and Recreation.
Questions have risen recently among residents about whether or not ITC would be clear-cutting trees along the path, which opened in 1993; however, both ITC and Parks and Recreation have confirmed that no work is scheduled for the remainder of the year, and with any cutting, Parks and Recreation must approve any ITC work. Trees that currently are tagged along the trail, near Mirror Lake Drive and Mirror Lake Court, are old tags, possibly from when ITC first took over the lines in 2008, said Joe Ketchum, Parks and Recreation superintendent.
“We have a very good relationship with West Bloomfield Township,” said Joe Kirik, senior communications specialist for ITC. “We coordinate with them and do work every year, but we don’t have anything scheduled in the near future until 2014.”
ITC took over the lines on the trail from Detroit Edison in 2003, and not knowing part of the trail was under woodland regulations, ITC began cutting trees, Ketchum said. Following the 2003 blackout, the federal government took a serious stance on keeping a clearing space along high voltage lines. Electrical lines are fully charged during the summer and tend to sag with the winds, so ITC works to maintain a good safety margin between trees and electrical lines, Kirik said. They also take into consideration the trees that can fall on lines from the sides.
“Once they got into West Bloomfield, their intent was to basically cut everything underneath the lines and make it more into a meadow or local natural habitat,” Ketchum said. However, Parks and Recreation halted ITC from clear-cutting due to the woodlands ordinance. Since then, ITC and Parks and Recreation meet on site twice a year to ensure the lines are cleared with the federal standards, he said.
In order to do work on the trail, ITC must follow established guidelines within the woodlands ordinance, and if Parks and Recreation has any concerns about certain trees being removed, ITC has, according to Navarre, been accommodating.
“We have to understand they have certain needs. We do, too,” Navarre said. “If you can make a positive relationship, it helps meet the needs of both agencies.”
After walking the regulated woodlands section along the trail in 2008, ITC’s plan was approved by the township, Ketchum said. The determination came back that ITC must obtain a permit if more than two trees 6 inches in diameter for every 30 feet of easement are removed. Since ITC owns the easement under the lines, a permit is not required if they remove fewer than two trees for every 30 feet. From the center of the trail, Parks and Recreation only owns 25 feet on each side, and ITC’s easement expands off of the Parks and Recreation property.
Marshall Labadie, West Bloomfield Township development services director, explained that every two years, ITC can cut down trees completely, but it has to be selective and rational. In parts of the easement that are not designated “woodlands,” ITC is allowed to maintain those areas without the restriction.
ITC’s plan, in its entirety, was to mitigate the impact of what work needed to get done and how the plan would impact the trail users and the neighbors, Ketchum said. When buffer foliage needed to be removed between the trail and surrounding neighborhoods, the company has, in the past, supplied property owners with a list of compatible species that ITC recommends be planted. In some cases, the company has provided gift cards to property owners for garden stores, Kirik said.
If ITC does any work on the trail, it takes place during the fall/winter months, Navarre said, as the trail is too busy during the summer. The main goal of the partnership is to keep the trail as natural as possible.