A small group of stakeholders will meet at the end of the month to craft a plan to remedy ComEd’s clear-cutting along a DeKalb nature trail. Members of the DeKalb Park District, ComEd representatives, and two people who live near the popular trail make up the panel.
In late November, crews hired by ComEd began clearing all trees and brush under their power lines that run along the mile-long path. Citizens were surprised…and outraged. DeKalb resident Ron Cress is not on the new panel, but he’s behind a proposal from the citizen’s group. He wants a company specializing in native plant restoration to oversee the project -- and plenty of opportunities for volunteers to help out.
Get rid of the aggressive non-natives that are there now, because they left a lot of honeysuckle. And with any new plant material that comes in, be it trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, ought to be native.
The plan is going to be expensive. DeKalb Park District Board president Joan Berkes-Hanson says ComEd has committed to working with the district to create a sustainable, compatible plan for the entire path.
I had also asked that they commit to a specific dollar amount and they didn’t. But I see babysteps of progress and I truly believe that that’s the way we have to approach this.
The panel’s first meeting is January 29th.
ComEd’s Communications Director Judy Rader did not want to comment when reached after the meeting, but says she will soon. The letter from Com Ed to the Park District is posted below.
January 9, 2013
Ms. Joan Berkes-Hanson
DeKalb Park District
1403 Sycamore Road
DeKalb, IL 60115
Dear Ms. Berkes-Hanson:
ComEd is submitting this letter to the DeKalb Park District Board to outline the agreed
upon approach that ComEd and the Board plan to take regarding vegetation management
within ComEd’s right-of-way along a 1.3 mile stretch of the DeKalb Nature Trail (the
ComEd greatly values its relationship with the Park District and the larger community
and we regret that our actions have caused concern among some members of the
community. We hope that we can work constructively on a solution that meets the needs
of all stakeholders. While we appreciate the aesthetics of the Trail, the reliability of the
electrical grid is vital to the community.
As we continue to have discussions, I want to ensure that the Board has a clear
understanding of the context within which ComEd acted and our plans moving forward.
• Following the major East Coast electrical blackout of 2003, the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC) and all its stakeholders necessarily placed
greater emphasis on vegetation maintenance practices below high-voltage
electrical lines such as the one at issue here.
• We continue to follow industry best practices when performing tree and
vegetation clearing and maintenance around our lines.
• We understand that some residents are upset about ComEd’s recent clearing of
vegetation along the Trail. This feedback is very helpful to improving how we
communicate vegetation management work in the future. We want to be sure all
parties are aware that the Park District was not involved in planning or
authorizing that effort.
• The power line along this easement is a high voltage 138 kV transmission line.
Although this particular line does not fall under FERC jurisdiction, ComEd’s
vegetation management policy is to follow standard FERC line clearance
requirements for all such high voltage lines. 138 kV lines are part of the critical
backbone of our electric system. A line of this voltage typically feeds several
substations that can serve over 20,000 customers each, so we must not lose sight
of the importance of this line to the broader community. The cleared vegetation
included species of trees that would eventually grow into this line.
• ComEd supports planting new vegetation along the Trail and is committed to
working collaboratively with the DeKalb Park District as described below to
create a compatible and sustainable vegetation plan along the Trail as long as it
still meets ComEd’s height limitations.
• ComEd understands that the Park District has recently developed a small panel of
stakeholders that includes two Park Board Commissioners, Park District staff,
ComEd and 2 to 3 members of the public. We will work with the panel to create a
long-term sustainable plan for the Trail that will consider methods of vegetation
management along the entire Trail that are compatible with high voltage electrical
lines and erosion control while at the same time promoting wildlife habitat and
As you know, ComEd has met with the Park District staff twice over the last few weeks
to discuss objectives for the Trail. We understand that the recently formed panel is first
scheduled to meet on January 29,2013. We look forward to working with the panel and
the Board in the coming weeks.