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Darlene Masciola and her husband bought their Dickinson Drive home 15 years ago knowing an Eversource right of way — with a transmission tower at the property’s rear left corner — traversed the lot.
While the Masciolas own the land, Eversource must maintain these rights of way by trimming or removing trees and shrubs to help protect the towers and lines.
But what happens when this work leaves unhappy residents? Just ask the Masciolas and another nearby homeowner, the Fernandeses on Webster Drive.
"“This is just ugly,” said Masciola as she stood in her backyard, looking at what she termed a mess left behind from subcontractors who clear cut the entire section of the right of way on her property, leading back to adjoining lots, late last year.
“I work hard on the rest of my property. Now I look out from my backyard, and I am just sick,” she said. “What I see makes me sick.”
“I was shocked, devastated,” said Kathy Fernandes. “I was so depressed, I cried. What was worse was that I could not get in touch with anyone. I wanted them to see what was done. I understand they can do work in the right of way, but I did not sign up for them to destroy my backyard.”
Work to remove what was deemed “critical vegetation in need of removal,” according to Eversource officials, was done on these and other properties in the Shelton area in December. In the months since, the Masciola and Fernandes families have made countless phone calls, seeking assistance in restoring what deemed the damaged areas.
“I just wanted them to come out and see what they did,” said Masciola. “I am not asking for a new yard. I’m asking for it to be fixed. They said they would hire a company to do bushes, do smaller trees that will grow up to 15 feet, and other bushes. They were supposed to start work on April 17, but I have not heard anything.”
For the Fernandes family there was no contact, but the Masciolas were able to consistently reach Eversource’s subcontractor. In the Masciolas’ case, a planting and restoration plan was formed, and Darlene said work was to begin in mid-April — but so far nothing.
That was until the past few days, when, after calls by the Shelton Herald to Eversource officials seeking answers, both families have been in touch with Eversource’s subcontractor, and plans are being formed as of this writing to fix the areas.
“This is a collaborative process,” said Frank Poirot, Eversource transmission projects media representative. “We work hard to be a good neighbor. It serves no purpose to do anything else.
“There are agreed upon plans for these sites, and our representatives will be calling them the day before any work is to be started,” added Poirot, who called the Eversource subcontractors its “ambassadors” to the community.
On the Masciola property, Poirot said the tree trimming and removal was necessary to eliminate any potential threat to the overhead lines. Poirot said that Eversource is committed to working with the family to create a plan to enhance the area’s landscape with plantings that will not impact the lines long term, and the subcontractors have even provided two loads of chips from the chipped trees.
The Masciolas are among dozens of homeowners in Shelton, hundreds in the state, with such a right-of-way on their land. Eversource alone as some 820 miles of overhead transmission lines, and the right of ways are in place so the company can operate and maintain a safe and reliable system.
According to Eversource, within the right-of-way corridor, subcontractors are used to remove “items or deny any use or activity that is inconsistent with our easement rights, that interferes with our ability to operate and maintain a safe and reliable system, or which compromises or restricts in any way the full use or purpose for which the right of way was established.”
For most living within the right of way, that means primarily tree trimming or removal if necessary.
“They came and cut. They never surveyed. They never measured. I just came home one day and found this mess,” added Masciola. “And — I’ve always had some water in the yard — but the problem now is the water comes into the backyard. The tower was just underwater, which has never happened in 15 years. Now this has become a bigger problem.”
According to Eversource, “When construction or maintenance is complete, disturbed (right of way) areas will be restored. Erosion controls will also be removed, although some may need to remain until the area is stabilized or until removal is directed by a regulating authority.
“In areas that were previously covered with grass, we will restore the area to its pre-construction condition with topsoil and seed,” according to the guidelines “In some areas where visual impacts are greatest, we will replant trees and shrubs with vegetation that is compatible with the future operation and maintenance of its transmission lines according to our guideline entitled, ‘Vegetation for Transmission Rights of Way’ and as required by state law and/or regulatory directive.”
Eversource’s “Right of Way Guidelines” state that the company will attempt to minimize property damage or other losses that may occur as a result of construction and maintenance activities.
“We will work with property owners seeking to make improvements within the corridors to determine compatibility with our operational and safety requirements,” said Poirot.
“I just want other people in our situation know what they can do to get help,” said Masciola.
Eversource, according to Poirot, may require the removal of items or deny any use or activity that is inconsistent with our easement rights, that interferes with our ability to operate and maintain a safe and reliable system, or which compromises or restricts in any way the full use or purpose for which the right of way was established.
Poirot acknowledges that no situation is perfect, and residents in rights of way who have any issues with work done on tree and brush removal are urged to call 888-673-9943.
“It can be difficult to address all expectations,” said Poirot. “We have to use what is appropriate to fit the area and not damage the lines. We have an extensive list of plantings, and we are happy to work with neighbors, like these families in Shelton, to come up with a planting plan that makes the homeowners happy.”