DTE working on energy reliability in Farms, Shores and Woods

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 21, 2020

 Tall trees, like the ones pictured here at Osius Park in Grosse Pointe Shores, should be planted at least 50 feet away from DTE Energy utility poles.

Tall trees, like the ones pictured here at Osius Park in Grosse Pointe Shores, should be planted at least 50 feet away from DTE Energy utility poles.

File photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE WOODS/FARMS/SHORES — DTE Energy crews will be spending 2020 on a couple of different projects that they believe will provide customers in Grosse Pointe Farms, Shores and Woods with more reliable electricity.

The utility is completely rebuilding the lines behind select homes in the Farms, Woods and Shores, installing new lines, poles and other related equipment, said Joseph Bargero, manager of engineering for DTE. This project will directly impact 45 households in the three communities, as DTE workers and contractors work in their backyards.

Bargero said those homeowners have all been contacted by DTE already, and in at least some cases, they’ve been notified by officials from their city as well. DTE held an open house Jan. 16 at Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall to meet with those residents and answer any questions they might have.

Bargero said this project — which is expected to cost DTE about $300,000 to $500,000 — is replacing old lines and equipment in an area that has been prone to outages, low voltage and related issues.

“This is a relatively small project, but it’s fairly impactful, so we wanted to go beyond what we would normally do,” Bargero said.

He acknowledged that having crews working in people’s yards was an inconvenience, but stressed that DTE would do as much as it could to work with residents.

“We want to make sure we communicate (with those impacted) as much as possible,” Bargero said.

Although the project most directly affects 45 homes, Bargero said the improvements “are much more far-reaching.” When work is completed, he said an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 customers in the Farms, Shores and Woods should see far fewer outages and other electrical problems.

Bargero said they started in January with the goal of finishing up by spring, including completion of restoration.

Officials in the three impacted Pointes were notified as well, and several of them were on hand for the DTE open house.

“DTE’s been so proactive on this particular project,” Grosse Pointe Shores Department of Public Works Director Brett Smith said. “It’s good when they let people know what’s going to happen before it happens.”

The new lines will be above ground, as they are now. Bargero said it’s much more expensive to relocate the lines underground, and the cities would need to pay the difference to move the lines. According to DTE, the cost to bury existing overhead lines is roughly six times more, and it disrupts existing trees and their roots, along with driveways, sidewalks, backyard playscapes and other outdoor amenities.

Subdivisions built since the mid-1970s have automatically had their lines placed underground, but Bargero noted that those areas still experience power outages, at least in part due to the fact that the wires feeding those areas are overhead.

Even more significant, according to DTE officials, is tree trimming, which is taking place throughout the Farms, Shores and Woods this year. Bargero said tree trimming also started in January.

“Seventy percent of our outages are tree-related,” Bargero said. “Trees are our nemesis.”

He said trees have to be trimmed before the new lines and poles are installed to make room for work to be performed. Maintenance tree trimming will also be taking place throughout the Farms, Shores and Woods during 2020.

“We’re doing maintenance tree trimming (around) two of our substations,” Bargero said. “We typically see about a 70% reliability improvement after we do maintenance trimming.”

Tree trimming might not be aesthetically pleasing, but it is purposeful.

“The way they’re trimmed is to minimize the impact on the tree and keep it as healthy as possible,” said Bargero, noting that DTE works with certified arborists on its tree trimming projects. “It isn’t just a hack and whack (job).”

He said tree trimming crews will typically do all necessary trimming in one area before moving to the next one, unless there are certain varieties of trees that should only be trimmed at specific times of the year. In those cases, Bargero said, workers would return to trim those trees at a time that’s better for the health of the tree.

Residents whose trees will be trimmed by DTE crews or its contractors can expect to receive various notices, including mailers, door hangers and even personal contact from someone knocking on the front door.

“When we do tree trimming, we do notify those customers,” said Je’well Pearson, a senior communications strategist with DTE.

Customers can avoid having their trees trimmed — or, in more extreme cases, removed — by considering the location and mature height of the tree when landscaping their property. Trees that reach a maximum height of 20 feet or less won’t require trimming by DTE and can be planted within 20 feet of a DTE utility pole. Trees that grow to a maximum of 45 feet can be planted 20 to 50 feet away from DTE utility poles. Trees that grow taller than 45 feet should be planted at least 50 feet away from a DTE pole.

DTE officials said workers will be wearing DTE safety vests and hard hats. Because some of them are contractors, they may not have a DTE Energy identification badge, but they should have an identification badge with the name of the company for which they work. Residents with concerns can call their city offices to verify the presence of DTE or its contractors in a particular neighborhood.

DTE officials said workers will likely only be out during daylight hours. For more information, call DTE customer service at (800) 477-4747 or visit newlook.dteenergy.com.