Sunday, November 29, 2009

What is the ROW?

Read about the destruction that recently occurred along transmission lines in Pleasantville. (Note: link is a pdf file from the Examiner News website archives, so it loads slowly.)

This article reports that the NYS PSC (Public Services Commission) 2005 guidelines for high tension line clearing are as follows:
  • trees planted 30 to 60 feet from transmission line should not exceed 15 feet in height
  • trees planted 60 to 90 feet away should not exceed 25 feet
  • trees 90 to 120 feet should not exceed 60 feet
I recent was emailed a copy of these guidelines to study in more detail. The guidelines are full of potentially nebulous or outright contradictory statements in my opinion (but I am not a legal expert...)

For example, the PSC outlines the need for environmentally responsible management of the woodlands and the ROW (Right of Way) with an eye towards minimizing public distress and outcry at the impacts of line clearing. It advocates a culling & replanting scheme which emphasizes growth of appropriately scaled trees (compatible species) under or near the lines. Yet, elsewhere, it clearly states that a multi-year program must be developed by transmission line utilities to clear cut the ROW for to ensure highest margin of reliability and safety.

The guidelines discuss the notion of ROW (Right of Way) as being a measurement from the centerline of the transmission towers. However, in the case of Con Ed, their legal ROW extends the full width of the Catskill Aqueduct easement. So it seems Con Ed is "over-extending" the intended PSC definition of ROW from that based upon center-line measurement to that of boundary line measurement. In such cases as along the Aqueduct, this creates a VERY WIDE swath of clear cutting reaching well into private property, calling into question compatibility with the PSC's stated environmental stewardship and landowner rights goals.

Related to this issue is another guideline obviously ignored by Con Ed: the PSC has placed highest priority on careful management of woodland resources at highly visible locations such as intersections/crossings of the high tension lines with public roadways. This is to ensure that proper visual buffers remain in place by which to screen off the transmission corridor. Just how has this guideline been followed at the Sprain Road / Underhill Road clearings?

In summary, these are some conclusions reached by a quick reading of the 2005 PSC Guidelines. It seems that although the goal of quality of service in mandated, the means to achieve this uninterrupted service has many gray areas left to be ironed out. That is why we need to reach out and engage our politicians and the PSC in a dialog which helps to more rationally define guidelines supportive of all of the community's needs (not just that of uninterrupted power).

Read the guidelines: NY PSC Case 04-E-0822.pdf


Anonymous said...

You need to examine the difference between ROW and easement also, Mark.

-mg- said...

Yes, easements may have differing conditions set upon them by the underlying property owners. In the case of most of the clear cut in Greenburgh area, for example, the underlying property owner is the NYC DEP (as Con Ed's easement runs contiguous - overlays - to the Catskill Aqueduct). So areas are owned outright by Con Ed, as well.

Con Ed and its contract crews are supposed to follow the conditions inherent to each easement when performing work.