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March 03. 2013 9:59PM

Salem power company plans spring pruning

SALEM - Tree crews at Salem's Liberty Utilities plan to trim trees along Zion Hill Road in time for the spring thaw.

During last week's Planning Board meeting, Jeffrey Carney, vegetation supervisor for the regional power company, was granted unanimous permission to remove dead limbs and potentially problematic branches along 26 sections of Zion Hill Road.

Carney, a certified professional forester with more than three decades of experience, said he would soon be approaching local property owners to ask permission before any pruning begins. State law requires power crews to obtain written permission from the Planning Board and all property owners beforehand.

Carney said he and other staff members surveyed the Zion Hill Road area before Hurricane Sandy last year to check for weak branches, dead limbs and sections of trees growing perilously near power lines.

The Zion Hill Road area must be handled with particular care, he noted, since those power wires feed approximately 600 households in that region.

"We were looking for preventative measures we could take in the short term," Carney told the board.

Among the trees that could potentially cause problems in the future is a large oak at 44 Zion Hill Road, which has one limb growing close to a power conductor. Just down the street, a pair of maples should also have some limbs pruned to avoid colliding with the wires, Carney said.

"Our challenge is to do our work in a way that doesn't significantly alter the area's rural character," he said.

Lines on Zion Hill Road also supply power to homes along Blush Street and East Broadway, Carney said. As it stands now, the only trees that may be cut down are dead elms halfway down the road near an old stone wall.

"We thought we'd maybe help the town out and make the road safer for the neighboring public," Carney said. "But because we have to get permission of the property owner first, if they should happen to bring something to my attention we'd certainly entertain notion of doing it at the company's cost."

Once spring pruning is completed, Liberty Utilities officials plan to visit the Zion Hill Road area every couple of years to monitor potential problems.

In the meantime, the company vowed to keep in regular contact with residents.

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