Power company considering deal to halt tree trimming, place lines underground

Call Collett

The SC Public Service Commission heard testimony Thursday on what’s become controversy tree trimming efforts by Dominion Energy and potential alternatives to cutting back tree limbs.

Tree trimming in the City of Charleston has been paused while the power company and the city work out a deal on how to preserve the trees but hedge against power failures from downed limbs.

Neighbors in and around the Riverland Terrace community have complained about the tree trimming for weeks. Tree trimming in Charleston County has continued despite the pause on city properties.

SCEG is hacking up our beautiful grandfather oaks in RiverlandTerrace,” one resident told News 2.

Keller Kisssam, with Dominion Energy, spoke to the committee Thursday. He told them the company has had a solid system reliability because of through vegetation maintenance. And while putting power lines underground is possible, it requires serious coordination with the power company, police, DOT, and municipalities.

At the April 4th meeting, Kissam told the committee Dominion Energy would be willing to put power lines underground if the county and city would agree to a funding plan. It would also require homeowners to pony up for upgrades on their individual properties.

“As the bucket trucks have been circling around Riverland Terrace and slashing tree by tree beyond what is necessary to keep the power lines clear. A Hail Mary pass was thrown to the Public Service Commission which agreed to take up the matter of excessive tree trimming,” Senator Sandy Senn wrote about the hearing.

The City of Charleston and Dominion are still hashing out a new standard of cutting back the limbs. The city submitted their inital proposal. It’s not likely much will change in the power company’s trimming program, which must follow specific federal guidelines.

 Kissam said the company could hold off on tree trimming until the end of the year as long as plans progress to fund putting the lines underground, but he told the commission members he’s disappointed the power company has stalled their efforts in the City of Charleston ahead of storm season.

Residents within city limits can petition the city for an agreement with the power company to relocate the lines underground within each community, but only if they are all willing to pay a portion.

In February Charleston County approved $26,000 toward a feasibility study to see if lines could be placed underground and determine a cost.  The county is finalizing the terms of the study.  The county does not have a franchise fee agreement like the City with the utility so it cannot share in cost of burying lines.

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