Nova Scotia energy minister says cutting trees not total solution on Arthur

Keith Doucette / The Canadian Press
August 20, 2014 01:34 PM

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's energy minister is expressing skepticism with a key part of Nova Scotia Power's response on its restoration efforts following post-tropical storm Arthur, saying the company's position that more trees need to be trimmed to prevent power lines from coming down is simplistic.

"I'm a little bit disappointed that Nova Scotia Power has seen this as cut the trees and make sure the lines don't come down in the wind, or accept the lines will come down and don't cut the trees," Andrew Younger said in an interview Wednesday.

"I don't really think it's a black and white issue like that."

Younger was responding a day after the utility company filed a report with the province's Public Utility and Review Board on its efforts to restore power in the days after the July 5 storm.

In the report, Nova Scotia Power said too many roadside trees in communities were partly to blame for delays in getting the power back on.

The report said the problem was particularly acute in the Annapolis Valley, where the majority of outages occurred, but it also pointed to Halifax, where it said trees continue to be planted directly under or very near power lines.

But Younger, who spent several years on Halifax Regional Council before becoming a provincial politician, said the city has been a good example because it has planted certain types of trees that grow better around power lines.

"It's a big issue, but I think Nova Scotia Power has to be open to a lot more variety in terms of the solutions," said Younger.

He said to its credit, Nova Scotia Power has also buried power lines in some areas.

A city planner in Halifax said while opinions differ between the municipality and Nova Scotia Power on issues such as how to gain more clearance for power lines, there has been co-operation between the two sides.

John Charles, project manager for the city's urban forest master plan, said Nova Scotia Power assisted the city last winter in identifying areas of concern during pruning and also helped with inspection work.

"There were deficiencies in that they felt we could have gained more line clearance, but overall I think they were satisfied with this collaborative work," Charles said.

He also said a plan was adopted in 2012 to prune trees at seven-year intervals, a time frame implemented in many North American cities.

"We've been working before that and since then ... to come up with new ways of dealing with clearing trees from power lines, but also maintaining tree health and environmental benefits at the same time," he said.

Charles said pruning itself is not always the answer as the city found by tracking tree damage caused by Arthur. He said few trees were uprooted by the storm, but many major limbs came down.

"In many of the cases, the structural integrity of the tree had been undermined by overly aggressive tree pruning for power line clearance in the past."

But Charles said there was almost no damage in areas that were trimmed last winter.


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