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March 28, 2020
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Slow-Moving Environmental Disaster

Published Aug. 07, 2019

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One thing my years as Killingworth’s first selectman have taught me is to pay close attention to conditions along our roads. I miss the days when I could drive down, say, Green Hill Road and simply delight in its beauty. Now I notice curbing and guardrails, sightlines and catch basins, and, these days, dead trees.

Our part of the state is facing what Tom Worthley, UConn professor of forestry, calls a “slow-moving environmental disaster”: dead and dying trees, due to several years of drought and infestations of insects such as gypsy moths and emerald ash borers.

I participate in an ad hoc group of stakeholders that discusses the issue of tree mortality in Connecticut. The biggest challenge for towns, of course, is the cost of removing dead trees along our roadways.

Killingworth increased its tree removal budget by 25 percent for FY 2019-’20, to $50,000. We are likely to need more.

Eversource also does a substantial amount of tree removal to protect its power lines, and we work closely with the utility to try to keep local costs down. The company recently received regulatory approval for expanded treework to cope with the disaster, and it is actively marking trees for removal in our town.

Another issue is the limited number of arborists and qualified tree removal specialists in the state. Removing trees along roadways and near power lines requires special equipment and skilled personnel, and the extensive mortality is straining resources.

Our stakeholder group is speaking with state legislators about financial relief for this slow-moving disaster. We have also discussed investing in shared equipment and enhancing training in our technical high schools and state colleges for tree experts.

As always, I encourage residents to alert our office to hazards they notice, including dead trees. Look up!

First Selectman Cathy Iino

Democrat Cathy Iino is seeking re-election in the November elections.