This morning, NPR's Morning Edition ran an energy NIMBY story with a twist: An "In My Back Yard" piece titled, "City Dweller Laments Loss Of Urban Trees," detailing the difficulties power companies can face in dealing with urban homeowners.
Utility people say they can't win. If they trim too aggressively, residents, like me, complain that they are destroying the canopy in an old neighborhood. But if untrimmed trees take out power lines during a storm, those same residents jump on the phone and demand that the utility turn the juice back on right away. Earl Eutsler is a District of Columbia arborist. He says there's only one way to solve the conflict between trees and power lines.
"Planting the proper tree in this space. For example, the amur maple we installed in front of your house," he explains.
"Proper tree, proper place" is the motto for the city's plan to replace tall trees under power lines with species that are more, shall we say, cooperative.
Eutsler takes me for a drive in his natural gas-powered car to show me what this might look like. He points to a series of purple leaf plum trees, planted in the "tree box," or curbside plot along the street, where stately elms used to stand. The new trees are "starting to establish themselves," Eutsler says. "These here that are already 15 feet are going to get another 10 feet tall, and that's really it," he says.
"But they're not really providing shade," I counter, staring at a perfectly respectable stand of trees that will never soar or form a graceful allee, "Not in the sense you can go out and sit with your neighbors under a tree like that."
"No, you're right," says Eutsler. "But it's more manageable, it's less dangerous."
City foresters encourage residents who want tall trees to plant them closer to homes, but away from the power lines. Despite my love for big trees, I'm not too crazy about having them right next to the house.