If you own property in Pine Knoll Shores (PKS), the town may soon have an abundant supply of wood chips available for you to load and haul. Rather than completing its regular power line trimming, the Carteret Craven Electric Cooperative (CCEC) will engage in line clearing. CCEC will be removing lots of trees from the power line right of way in town. They will also engage in extensive trimming in the adjacent wood lots, including trimming on private property. We are comforted by the Town Manager, Brian Kramer, that trees will not be removed from private property, just trimmed. Note, I did notice some trees on private property that have been marked for removal.
The apparent reason for the CCEC change in policy is to reduce yearly trimming work. As a CCEC employee stated, “If we take it down, we do not have to come back in a few years to trim it”. I have seen no evidence from either the town or CCEC that the change in policy will reduce power outages in town. The trees that are to be removed are already under the power lines. Limbs fall down rather than up, as I recall.
Considering the change in practice, I reflected upon recent hurricane recoveries. PKS has significantly more tree coverage than adjacent towns on Bogue Banks. Given this difference, you would think that reentry into town after a major blow would be delayed. More trees mean more limbs. This should result in more limb and debris induced power line breakage. More breakage should mean that PKS routinely delays re-entry to property owners for longer periods of time than its neighboring towns. I have witnessed only one extended delay in my many years of association with the town. That delay, for one day, occurred during the Hurricane Florence recovery. I understand that the delay was the product of other issues, not power outage.
If you own property that is adjacent to a power line right of way, you may notice that trees have been marked for removal. The Town Manager and the Community Appearance Committee have been active in identifying trees that will be removed. You can expect one hundred or more trees to fall to the axe. The trees that will be removed which are adjacent to my property are easily over thirty years old. During the December PKS Board of Commissioner’s meeting, the Town Manager informed us that we need not worry about the degradation of the Town’s appearance since only ugly trees are being removed.
I gave some thought to the process of tree identification that has proceeded in PKS. If this is a CCEC initiated process to efficiently manage power line management, why is the town selecting the trees that will be removed? I have to scratch my head regarding that one. Town officials would be better engaged as advocates for the preservation of the tree cover. PKS is one of only three municipalities designated under state law with the responsibility to manage and protect its forests. The cities of Asheville and Raleigh are the others. The functional benefits of power line maintenance are reaped by CCEC. Why aren’t they completing the process?
Legally, the Town of Pine Knoll Shores has responsibility for forestry protection and development within its borders. Under state law and within its defined area of responsibility, its ordinances supersede that of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The Commission provides the legal authority for utility management. Further, the express statutory authorization mentioned earlier extends the town’s authority to meet its mission of forestry preservation. Past CCEC practices have been sufficient to maintain parity in hurricane recovery with neighboring municipalities and the town’s mission has not been compromised. The Pine Knoll Shores Board of Commissioners is very aware of their legal prerogative and the moral obligation to protect the town’s forestry cover. They have made no move to do so.
Why is the town now employing municipal resources to identify “ugly trees” for destruction? I guess that any tree that survives this process should be complimented. Someone considered it to be too pretty to take down? The town’s elected leadership should be applying its resources to minimize the damage to the tree cover that will result from CCEC activities. Yes, you can have a forest and electricity too. The town has managed this for at least three decades.