UI takes down tall pine trees on Mohegan Road in Shelton

More than a dozen large white pine trees were removed on Mohegan Road last week because they could potentially impact overhead electric wires.

The trees were up to an estimated 70 feet in height, and were taken down by crews from Lewis Tree Service at the request of the United Illuminating Co.

They were located between Far Mill Street and Booth Hill Road, in the vicinity of Hearthstone and Wigwam drives.

UI officials said 15 to 20 trees were “within the Utility Protection Zone” and “removed to ensure increased electric reliability and public safety.”

Signs were posted on the trees by the city tree warden in advance of their removal, and no one requested a hearing to formally object.

Tree Warden Dean Cawthra said the process involves UI approaching homeowners to tell them about the planned removal. If anyone raises concerns, the tree warden must post a notice on the trees and people have 10 days to ask for a hearing.

Initial concerns, no hearing requests

Cawthra said initial concerns were raised but then no one asked for a hearing to contest the planned work. “They had ample time to call and didn’t,” he said.

He said the trees taken down have been “a nuisance and hazard” for many years.

“Every time there’s a storm, crews have to deal with them,” Cawthra said of fallen branches and electrical outages.

He said the trees also impacted sight lines and created so much shade they caused ice to accumulate on the road in the winter. “This is to everyone’s advantage,” Cawthra said.

Some of the tree removal workers said neighbors who approached them were happy to see the trees being cut down.

UI officials said the company does not have a tree replacement program, and “any tree planting is decided by the tree warden or local community group working with the tree warden.”

Cawthra said usually few Shelton residents request formal hearings when tree-removal notices are posted, and only one such hearing took place in 2014 (in White Hills).

Newer state law on utility tree removal

Additional tree clearing has been taking place on other parts of Mohegan Road, as part of UI’s upgraded tree maintenance program.

A newer state law allows utility companies to create an eight-foot-wide buffer on both sides of power lines. The law was passed after a few years of major storms frequently knocked out power for extended periods in many parts of Connecticut.