This is not an official document, and only
expresses the thoughts of this webpage - begun November 13, 2012.
RELATED? I-BBC ON NYC,
AND SOME OTHER
Solutions for Weston in Order to Live in a Sustainable Way:
and Individual Security in Weston and a Timeline for Action, a Study by
Contents: The Chapters
introduction. Philosophical underpinnings
Chapter One: How could this, adapting "sustainability" as a measure
for all municipal actions, work in Weston?
Two: Government and other man-made
entities. How do we build consensus?
is our existing infrastructure
model for municipal and individual security? How has it been
the last two years? What should we do next?
for the Plan.
Implementation by consensus.
EMS, WVFD activities previously, as recorded on this website.
If NYC is an example of
the urban - Weston, in these terms, is rural. What is it about
Weston that makes living here like Feng shui?
HURRICANE SANDY: Evergreen trees were hit hardest
here - our Kousa Dogwood held its
"Depth to bedrock"map from D-O - lighter shade of grey, closer to
bedrock - shallower root system?
What is so special about Weston, Connecticut? We're #1 for being
the least non-residentially zoned community of all 169 in CT!
Bridgeport Hydraulic Company had owned what became the Lucius
Ordway Preserve ("Devil's Den"), having flooded a good part of the
original town of Weston in order to build the Saugatuck Reservoir in
the 1930's. City-centric development patterns held until the
1950's and 1960's.
We were ahead of the game. Weston was so remote in the mid 1960's
that it showed as a blank spot on the map developed by SWRPA, putting
together all 8 towns and their own plans of development. Before
we talked about sustainability, shortly after the first "Earth Day,"
Weston, CT did it's own "Weston Environmental Resources Manual"
in 1976. If we use the new
Google tool to check the origin of the word "sustainability" we
find that it came into use...in the 1970's!
Since no one really knows how much water is below the surface, and no
one can guarantee how much rainfall there will be, Weston has always
tried not to overtax its natural resources by giving into arguments
about increasing ratables by permitting industrial and business
development. Neither have town boards and commissions weakened
under the threat of lawsuits for other changes to the all-residential
(special permits for apartments and home occupations; farming
permitted as of right) nature of the town..
Sounds like a plan to be sustainable to me!
The Wikipedia definition
Sustainability in a general sense is the capacity to support,
maintain or endure. Since the 1980s human sustainability has been
related to the integration of environmental, economic, and social
dimensions towards global stewardship
and responsible management of resources
the E.P.A. definition of "sustainability?"
"Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that
we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or
indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates
and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in
productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and
other requirements of present and future generations." So says
is the "triple bottom line?"
"The TBL is an accounting framework that incorporates three
dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. This
differs from traditional reporting frameworks as it includes ecological
(or environmental) and social measures that can be difficult to assign
appropriate means of measurement. The TBL dimensions are also commonly
called the three Ps: people, planet and profits. We will refer to these
as the 3Ps." From a research study at Indiana University.
as a guiding principle is something the Planet needs.
Google "sustainability" and guess
what? Here we are at #5
(the blog): http://sustainableweston.org/
Weston is at the cutting edge, at least as far as being at the
top of the Google search function! Why is that? Because
community decided many, many years ago to forego "ratables" for
sustainability goals - the environmental kind. We are now into
the "triple bottom line" theory - exchange "minimizing increases in
property tax" for "profits."
It is true that you pay better attention to societal problems if they
fall close to home. Example near top of this page, out my front
door. Obvious to me is that this is a global problem (more floods everywhere of greater strength)
and as the weather pattern changes and water increases in temperature, hurricanes become more powerfull..
In Weston, we have effectively lived "sustainability" since 1976 (Other ideas from "Weston
Environmental Resolurces Manual" - Dominski-Oakrock Study).
In 1993, the Weston Water Study
investigated water quality in our private wells (a rigorous
investigation by Dr. Jan Dunn). There was no way to accurately
assess water quantity - but the concept of maintaining a balanced water
cycle was suggested as good policy, in principle.
All the participants in decision making about the Weston environment
must be on the same page - coordinated. For example:
- Special Committees appointed:
Sustainibility, Bike-Ped, perhaps eventually, Lachat;
- Volunteer coalition (s):
Community Services Coalition (and Social Services Department);
if not already doing so, encourage sustainable development - note
"depth to bedrock" - darker is deeper on this map (legend).
Develop amendment to zoning regs that addresses standards for municipal
and individual property standards for sustainability;
- Board of Finance:
Continue policy of sustainable finance to keep Weston self-sufficient;
- Board of Education:
Expand community spirit policy by sharing facilities with Town of
Weston (i.e. when schools are closed because of weather event,
make building (s) served by tertiary treatment plant available to town)
since the taxpayers paid for the facilities, that makes sense!
- Board of Selectmen:
Become regional leaders on sustainability - Weston as an example of one
of Connecticut's Town Meeting towns (@110 in CT out of 169
total). Develop pilot study of organizational structure that
works in small towns.
CHAPTER TWO: Beyond local
government. Federal, State and Voluntary Regional Planning
: OTHER ACTORS
New Jersey beach community (l) looks like Katrina
If "contact" (next) would this be "federal case?" No. Or an
insurance claim? Maybe...but for sure, coastal communities got
whacked...those of us inland and upland, on shallow
soil areas did, too!
Role: Nature Conservancy's work on "sustainability" here.
Will the latest stress on FEMA produce a
change in standards for flood insurance, etc.? Will we change the
way we build in flood plains? How about Climate Change re:
coastal communities? How about the Army
Corps of Engineers role in future policy on these matters?
The immediate questions will be answered; how does the new State
Plan of C&D address this? Where in the
Plan is sustainibility mentioned?
Make that "Three Storm" panel, now. Read of State Senator e-mail on
relief $$. "Micro-Grid" idea from 2011
Regional Planning role:
"Sustainable Communities" for Tri-State Region; amend the current
SWRPA Regional Plan of C&D to make sure
"sustainability" is explained and introduced into EVERY PART of the
PURA scheduling hearings soon, according to sources. And
as creatures of the state, in a manner of speaking, since
companies are give more freedom to operate than other private
businesses, what is the Legislature going to do to deal with them in
the next session?
(In terms of rates and other matters.)
NOTE: Co-Chair. of Energy & Technology Committee defeated for
by candidate with relations to wind energy firm...
CHAPTER THREE: In the
neighborhood (s)...how many people equals a neighborhood in Weston?
- click for enlargement of SWRPA map.
How does the political system work for or against Weston?
Can we rally other small towns to get action for change?
Should there be an over-arching concept behind what the
Can more be done by WCSC than it has done
Beyond the "shelter in place"
What more is left to do?
CHAPTER FOUR: "Foundations
for the Planet Weston" under development..."PPP" stands for people,
planet, profits. "Profits" on a local government scale, in our
Depths legend and map, Weston
Environmental Resources Manual 1976,
THE PLANET WESTON:
Which is the correct map to use to discuss PPP - one that shows natural
resources or one that shows population density - or one that shows
centers of community activity? How about overlaying all of them
and seeing what we've got?
Speaking of the map - we are reminded of depth
to bedrock map from 1976 Dominski-Oakrock report. We are
reminded of this by comments in this story -
Weston already has an idea about depth to bedrock! Of course, it
was presented a long time ago, and it was in reference to septic
systems...but bedrock doesn't change unless there is...an earthquake.
WHAT'S NEEDED: A map or
series of maps showing "neighborhoods" and major communication
linkages coordinated with the emergency relief and services
centers and the command center. Explanation of types of
GOAL: Safety and security
POLICIES: Coordination of town and private actions
PROGRAMS: "Shelter in place" requirements planning for
short/medium and longer periods; comfort station organization;
provide power to town buildings; private planning ahead to find
& IMPLEMENTATION: Estimates of needs by type and scale of events,
cross-tabulated. Communication strategy.
RESEARCH - ARTICLES COLLECTED FROM
Reorganization in CT
Former CT Siting Council called "PURA,"
one of entities under "DEEP" (Department of
Energy and Environmental
The Generator Is the Machine of the
By JULIE SATOW, NYTIMES
January 11, 2013
IN the days that followed Hurricane Sandy, the developer of the luxury
condominium 150 Charles Street hunkered down with his team of
architects and engineers to rethink the building’s design.
Just steps from the Hudson River, the construction site was partially
flooded. “Their mandate was to figure out how the building would have
stayed open in a storm like this,” said Steven Witkoff, the developer.
“They came back with a list of five things, and we implemented every
The efforts delayed the project by some six weeks and added as much as
$3 million to its cost.
It was one of a number of projects that convened their engineers and
construction teams to reconsider their plans after the rising waters
rushed over the city’s embankments and into the basements of countless
residential buildings across Lower Manhattan.
Now, more than two months after the storm caused millions of dollars in
damage, novel and costly waterproofing techniques are being employed,
including the addition of backup generators and floodgates, and the
relocation of mechanical equipment. The owners of buildings that
predate the flooding are also looking at these measures, although
retroactive installation is so complex and costly that some may decide
not to do anything.
“If you are in the flood zone and you are marketing a new high-end
property, it will need to stand up to the test of another superstorm,”
said Stephen G. Kliegerman, the executive director of development
marketing for Halstead Property. “I think buyers would happily pay to
be relatively reassured they wouldn’t be terribly inconvenienced in
case of a natural disaster.”
At 150 Charles Street, Mr. Witkoff plans to forestall a blackout by
installing two natural-gas-powered generators on the roof to run the
fire-alarm system, the emergency egress lighting, the elevators, and
electrical and mechanical support equipment. Each apartment will be
equipped with at least one electrical outlet connected to the
generators. The developer is also ordering five-foot-tall floodgates
that can be assembled and installed to encircle the building in a
matter of hours. The gates, which fit together like toy Lincoln Logs,
are to be stored in the basement.
Finally, Mr. Witkoff is using poured concrete instead of cinder block
for the basement walls. And each basement mechanical room will be
sealed with watertight submarine-style doors.
“This is the new normal,” said Adam Gordon, the president of Adam
Gordon Holdings, which is building a condominium at 560 West 24th
Street in Chelsea. “With two hurricanes in two years, this is the new
base level for the way people should think about building in New York.”
Mr. Gordon’s Chelsea project will have a waterproof “concrete
superstructure” from the basement to the second floor that has 13-foot
floodgates; waterproofed rooms with submarine-style doors to protect
mechanical and electrical systems; and a generator and a pumping system
run on natural gas.
The floodgates are expected to cost Mr. Gordon roughly $100,000 — “not
an insignificant cost, but not breathtaking.” He is still pricing the
other waterproofing measures. The building, eight units averaging 3,300
square feet each with a ground-floor art gallery, is to be completed in
The developer Time Equities is rethinking the plans for its
approximately 62-story condominium at 50 West Street. It is considering
replacing a hotel with multilevel retail and, to make the building
flood-resistant, moving the mechanical room onto the second or third
floor. The developer is also looking at raising the sill height on the
ground floor and using floodgates at the entrances.
After the storm, Time Equities hired the Albanese Organization, which
built the Visionaire, the Verdesian and the Solaire in Battery Park
City, to be its development manager.
“The Albanese Organization are the exact people to handle the project,”
said Robert Singer, the director of development and acquisitions for
Time Equities, “because Battery Park City was the only place that had
electricity during the storm, while the rest of Lower Manhattan went
As for timing, “50 West Street is looking to expedite its design,” said
Jack C. Becker, the executive vice president for design and
construction of the Albanese Organization, “and we are hoping that by
late spring or early summer to at least get the foundation started.”
Mr. Becker is looking at similar strategies for 111 Washington Street,
a 50-story rental project on which Albanese is also advising. There,
the electrical system is being moved to a higher floor from the
basement, at an estimated cost of $850,000, Mr. Becker said.
Relocating basement mechanical systems means eliminating space on upper
floors that could have been used for apartments or building amenities,
said George Poniros, the assistant director of construction at Pink
Stone Capital Group, the developer of 111 Washington. “It does cut into
some of our sellable space,” he said, “but when people go to rent in
our building they will know that we have taken these extra precautions,
and it will give us an edge.”
Pre-existing buildings in the flood zone are also weighing their
options. At Superior Ink, the condominium and town-house development in
the West Village, the storm flooded the lobby and basement, and some
mechanical systems were damaged by saltwater erosion. The residents,
forced out of their apartments for more than 40 days, paid an
assessment totaling $1 million in December so renovations could start
immediately, without any wait for insurance proceeds.
The building is moving its electrical and mechanical systems to the
second floor, to share space with the garage, and is considering
installing a generator.
Superior Ink is rebuilding amenities in their below-ground sites,
including the gym, the playroom, the residents’ lounge and the bike
room. “It is almost a lucky accident since it provides us a rare
opportunity to do over the common spaces the way the residents want
them,” said Melanie Lazenby, an executive vice president of Douglas
Elliman and a resident. Ms. Lazenby, who stayed with her mother on the
Upper East Side for 42 days after the storm, said the lobby was already
70 percent rebuilt.
As for that $1 million assessment, “they anticipate we will be given
the money back once the insurance money comes in,” Ms. Lazenby said.
Many affected buildings whose residents did not pay a special
assessment are still waiting for their insurance proceeds. The
development 88 Greenwich, across from Battery Park City, incurred
basement flooding. The water dislodged an oil tank, which hit a ceiling
beam and cracked open, necessitating a major cleanup.
“The building is now open again,” said Dan Wurtzel, the president of
Cooper Square Realty, the condominium’s manager, “but the only thing
currently on their radar is getting through the insurance process. It
is going to take several months for this to be completed, and only then
will they begin to confront the next question, which is what can they
do to prevent this from recurring.”
Some pre-existing buildings are not taking any action at all. At 116
John Street, a 419-unit rental, the boiler and generator were
fortunately already on the roof. But not so the electrical switchgear
that controlled many other systems; it was damaged by floodwater.
“Our switchgear is in the basement and I don’t know how one can move
that elsewhere,” said Nathan Berman, the principal of Metro Loft
Management, the building landlord. “It is a matter of economics — I’m
not sure too many developers would want to compromise lucrative space
elsewhere in the building for a storm that was hopefully just a 25- or
Some management companies that oversee buildings in the flood zone are
thinking along the same lines.
“While buying a generator itself may not be that expensive,” Mr.
Wurtzel said, “it is everything else — like connecting it to the
various building systems that you want to run in case of a power
failure, then securing a fuel supply by either running a natural-gas
line or using diesel fuel — that can be costly and logistically
“I don’t want to say you are throwing your money away,” he continued,
“but if your electrical mains that feed the building are in the
basement, they are going to be damaged anyway, so it just may not be
Paul Gottsegen, the Halstead Management Company’s president and
management director, is advising buildings to “instead of retrofitting
their mechanical areas, to concentrate more on preparedness.” The
company’s emergency task force has come up with recommendations on when
to evacuate buildings and other best practices.
The issue of where to put building systems remains a thorny one for
many new buildings. The building code does not count basement space
used for mechanical equipment in the square footage permitted by
zoning. But if the mechanical room is on an upper floor, it is included
in the square footage and thus impinges on sellable space, like
apartments and amenities. And while in some cases the equipment can be
moved to the roof, many buildings are subject to height restrictions.
“Builders want to be more resilient, but don’t want to be penalized by
giving up space,” said Russell Unger, the executive director of the
Urban Green Council. He is a member of a task force set up by the City
Council and the mayor’s office to study ways to help buildings better
prepare for extreme weather. Its findings will be published this summer.
“If you are in a flood zone, you cannot have your mechanicals in the
basement,” said Donald A. Capoccia, the managing principal of the
developer BFC Partners. “There are no two ways about it. The building
codes have to change to reflect this new reality.”
Although builders across the city are only in the initial stages of
figuring out how to build in a post-Sandy landscape, one thing is
clear: “People are discussing spending billions of dollars for sea
walls around the city or barrier islands, or even redesigning entire
coastal communities,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, an architect and an
associate professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of
Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
“But there are many simpler measures that builders can do quickly and
relatively affordably. We should utilize these strategies first and
foremost, and see where that takes us.”
By Design, Water in the Basement
The architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, in the Netherlands when Hurricane
Sandy sent water crashing over riverbanks and into Manhattan, was
inspired by what he saw.
“There, they do not fight the water,” said Mr. Chakrabarti, a partner
at SHoP Architects and an associate professor at Columbia’s Graduate
School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, “but rather allow
the lower level of buildings and parks to flood to retain the water,
which is a much lower-cost strategy. This is not rocket science; places
like the Netherlands and Venice have been dealing with this for
One beneficiary of his trip may be a 350,000-square-foot retail and
hotel project that he is designing for the Staten Island waterfront. In
conjunction with the developer, BFC Partners, Mr. Chakrabarti is
considering building the lower level of the complex’s three-floor
parking garage to double as a giant water-retention tank capable of
holding millions of gallons of floodwater.
“Our lowest point is eight feet above sea level,” said Donald A.
Capoccia, the managing principal and founder of BFC, “so if you have a
13-foot surge, you would still get 5 feet of water on the site, so we
have to plan for it.”
If a garage reservoir is built, Mr. Chakrabarti said, developers
“should get some sort of zoning incentive, since it would help flood
control not just at the development, but across the entire
In Rural Minnesota, a
70-Acre Lab for Sustainable Living
By BRYN NELSON, NYTIMES
11, 2013, 12:07 pm
Paul Hunt still remembers the dilemma that he and his wife, Lynn, faced
in early January 2010 at their home in rural north-central Minnesota.
The couple had just moved into their ultra-efficient house, on the
outskirts of Pine River, population 944, but still lacked a thermostat
and were about to go out of town for more than two days. It was
bitterly cold, and an exterior sensor, one of the many dotting their
house, suggested that the nighttime temperature would dip far below
zero. Should they leave the heat on or turn it off?
As a former Minnesotan, I can say without hesitation that this is not a
difficult midwinter decision for the average homeowner. Neither the
Hunts nor their home are what you'd call typical, however. Their
decision to leave the heat off - despite a low of 32 degrees below zero
Fahrenheit on Jan. 2 - was vindicated upon their return home, when they
found that their interior had remained a reasonably comfortable 66
In the midst of Minnesota's scenic lake country, the Hunts have
assembled an eclectic mix of buildings on a 70-acre campus, including
their own airtight super-insulated house. A separate administrative
building called Old Main, constructed from straw bales and adobe-like
cob, features a dragon and hanging bats carved into one exterior wall
and a bathroom festooned with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Nearby, a
manufacturing space of nearly 14,000 square feet known as the ManiShop
boasts a spacious built-in greenhouse and what may be the largest
glazed hot air solar panel array in all of North America.
Within this laboratory of energy-efficient housing, the Hunt Utilities
Group, or HUG, mixes high-tech ingenuity with homespun practicality and
a touch of whimsy in its drive toward what Mrs. Hunt laughingly dubs
She may have the immediate goal of luxuriating in a guilt-free solar
panel-heated bath. But the company she started a dozen years ago with
her husband is angling for a far bigger payoff. In the long-term, HUG
hopes to construct homes that heat and cool themselves, feed their
occupants and recycle all of the nutrients through integrated
If the end goal seems idealistic, the Hunts were cheerfully pragmatic
during my recent visit to a campus that puts them within walking
distance of Pine River's compact downtown. The company has grounded its
expectations in the clear-eyed requirement that all methods must prove
their mettle in Minnesota's often-brutal winters or be discarded. HUG's
dozen or so employees have systematically experimented with heating and
air exchange systems and windows, for example, and designed and built
some of their own components when others aren't up to snuff.
The campus also houses two nonprofits: the Rural Renewable Energy
Alliance, which focuses on making solar power more accessible, and
Happy Dancing Turtle, which promotes sustainable living through
practical hands-on programs.
The like-minded tenants have all benefited from the technological
wizardry of Mr. Hunt, who founded Hunt Technologies in the mid-80s and
patented an ultra-narrow bandwidth communication system that allowed
utilities to use devices called "turtles" to remotely read data from
electric power meters at homes and businesses.
Borrowing a few ideas from that technology, Mr. Hunt has blanketed the
Pine River campus with a data- measuring system dubbed HUGnet. "The
whole place is a lab," he said during my visit. The system, which
includes more than 1,000 sensors placed at strategic points on the
buildings, collects parameters like temperature, wind speed, pressure
and humidity every five to 15 minutes. "We need to know what works and
what doesn't so the next design gets much better," Mr. Hunt said.
The data are publicly available on the Internet, meaning that anyone
can track the temperature fluctuations beneath the Hunt's kitchen
table, on the floor of their combination root cellar-storm shelter, or
at the east end of their built-in greenhouse.
The Hunts stress that whatever ultimately emerges from their housing
laboratory must be readily affordable while measuring up to their
standards, and they have begun working with an architect to help design
a culturally sensitive prototype for Indian reservations. Bob McLean,
HUG's chief operating officer, said that the company also has been
heavily involved in regional sustainability efforts, including the
federally financed Central Minnesota Sustainable Development Plan.
The blessing of the Cass County Board of Commissioners, has been
critical to HUG's success, Mrs. Hunt said. Before buying the property,
the couple approached the county board for permission to bend or break
some building and sewer codes so they could experiment with how to
improve upon them. The county not only agreed, she said, but told her
and her husband that they should do even more to break the rules.
Signs of the company's prolific experimentation are now everywhere on
campus. The Hunts have tried out different types of solar panels and
composting toilets, while a plus-size worm composting bin in the
ManiShop's greenhouse allows the workers to recycle their lunch
leftovers. Large methane digester tanks huddle in a corner of the
Hunts' spacious garage for another research project on treating
household sewage and using plants to filter the effluent.
Not satisfied with the insulating potential of existing window options,
the company designed a double-window setup for the Hunts' home with a
foot-wide sill separating the layers. In a rental duplex across campus,
the company's construction manager, Dug Swanson, is overseeing a trial
of multiple window designs that are getting a rigorous real-world
tryout in winter weather. By applying the lessons learned in building
an initial stand-alone rental unit next door, Mr. Swanson said, HUG was
able to cut its per-square-foot construction costs by nearly half for
The Hunts weren't shy about pointing out what materials and methods
that didn't make their performance cut. Although clearly proud of their
quirky administrative building, with its artistic flourishes,
three-foot-thick walls and low energy consumption, they readily
discussed the building's energy performance flaws. And the straw bale
and cob technique, often a patience-trying labor of love, proved so
work-intensive that they've ruled it out for their other construction
Mrs. Hunt said the wind turbine near the main entrance makes a great
calling card, but that the area's variable and generally modest winds
have limited the turbine's contribution to overall energy production.
And although the ManiShop boasts a no-maintenance green roof, the Hunts
said they'll probably exclude that feature as well from future
buildings. By including other design elements, they found, the green
roof isn't needed to prevent heat loss or water runoff, while the
structure required a massive support system to keep the ManiShop's roof
from collapsing during a heavy snowfall.
Built-in south-facing greenhouses are a signature of HUG's design work.
The lack of natural daylight in the winter months, though, has made the
greenhouse in the ManiShop more suitable for ornamental plants than for
produce. For now, the Hunts have been growing fruit and vegetables in a
three-acre garden surrounded by an eight-foot-high deer fence, another
requirement in Minnesota. The garden produced its first harvest this
past summer and fall, distributed mainly among workers.
So far, HUG's heating systems have offered one of the clearest signs
that the company is on the right track. Within the ManiShop, an
air-exchange system directs the greenhouse's 95-degree air near the
ceiling to the large array of solar panels. The panels warm the air to
140 degrees before pipes pull the heat into a giant underground battery
formed by a 10-mile-long network of corrugated pipes buried in sand
beneath the building's foundations.
The ManiShop, in particular, has scored particularly well on the Home
Energy Rating System, or HERS, program, with a rating of 12 (more than
eight times as efficient as a standard new home). The Hunts, though,
have tailored their arguments for cost-conscious consumers. Mrs. Hunt
told me proudly that the monthly cost to heat the 13,790-square foot
building averages only $85.54, tax included.
And there are other wintertime considerations. "The element that you
don't think about every time is, how fast does it pay back when your
pipes don't freeze?" Mr. Hunt said. "And it's not an emergency if your
heater fails or if the electricity goes out."
Last January was unusually mild, at least by Minnesota standards, and
Mrs. Hunt rarely had to turn on her home's heat at all. "When I get
cold, I let the grandchildren come over and play and they heat up the
house," she said, with a smile.
SOURCES ON UNDERGROUNDING AND CT HISTORY: "ABOUT TOWN" HAS BEEN
WATCHING FOR A REALLY LONG TIME (PRE
Comparison of outages, underground v.
Why aren't more powerlinws underground? From elsewhere,
Insights on the future of fuel and power (Oct. 2012): Christian
Local "power brokers" discuss power: From e-paper, 2011
ENTERGY discusses the issue in 2008: PROS
SOME HISTORY OF CT DEREGULATION, AS REMEMBERED FROM "ABOUT
REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL POWER PAGES:
Remember this story of citizen outcry winning (at least in
Power became a political issue locally in 2004: power.htm
Power suppply came to our attention in August of 2001: powersupply.html
6 December 2012 Last updated at 00:37 ET
Suomi satellite pictures Earth in black
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, San Francisco
This spectacular night-time view of Earth is called Black Marble.
It has been assembled from a series of cloud-free images acquired by
one of the most capable satellites in the sky today - the Suomi
The platform was launched by the US last year, principally to deliver
critical meteorological data. The Black Marble dataset shows off
of Suomi's key innovations: the low-light sensitivity of its VIIRS
instrument.VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) can
discern a range of phenomena of interest to weather forecasters -
cloud, snow, fog, etc - even when the satellite is on the dark side of
Most of the time, all VIIRS needs to do its work is some illumination
from the Moon. But if that is not available, the instrument can still
detect features down below just from the nocturnal glow of the
And, of course, just as this Black Marble rendition demonstrates, VIIRS
is also very good at capturing the lights of our cities. The new
imagery was unveiled here at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall
Meeting, the largest annual gathering of Earth scientists. Data
Suomi - a joint Nasa and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) satellite - is certain to become a mainstay of
future presentations at this conference.
VIIRS' trick is its special day-night band. Unlike a camera that
captures a whole picture in one exposure, the day-night band produces
an image by repeatedly scanning a scene and resolving it as millions of
individual pixels. The system then reviews the amount of light in
pixel. If it is very bright, a low-gain mode prevents the pixel from
oversaturating; if the pixel is very dark, the signal is amplified.
US Air Force satellites have pushed the development of low-light
sensors for decades but Nasa/Noaa representatives at the AGU meeting
said VIIRS had taken the capability to a new level. One of the
instrument's most important observations of late was to watch Hurricane
Sandy as it made landfall over the US in October.
Suomi was launched as the NPP (National Polar-orbiting Operational
Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project) satellite.
It was subsequently renamed in honour of the pioneering Earth
observation scientist Verner E Suomi. The two-tonne, $1.5bn
spacecraft circles the globe, pole to pole, at an altitude just over
Its five instruments are tasked with monitoring a huge range of land,
ocean, and atmospheric phenomena - from the temperature and humidity of
the air, to the spread of algal blooms in the ocean; and from the
amount of sunlight bouncing off clouds to the extent of Arctic ice.
A Failed Experiment
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, NYTIMES
In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have
isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that
automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the
electrical grid goes out.
In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost
well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again
(A month ago, I would have written more snarkily about residential
generators. But then we lost power for 12 days after Sandy — and that
was our third extended power outage in four years. Now I’m feeling less
snarky than jealous!)
More broadly, the lust for generators is a reflection of our antiquated
electrical grid and failure to address climate change. The American
Society of Civil Engineers gave our grid, prone to bottlenecks and
blackouts, a grade of D+ in 2009.
So Generac, a Wisconsin company that dominates the generator market,
says it is running three shifts to meet surging demand. About 3 percent
of stand-alone homes worth more than $100,000 in the country now have
standby generators installed.
“Demand for generators has been overwhelming, and we are increasing our
production levels,” Art Aiello, a spokesman for Generac, told me.
That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts
focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public
services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private
It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to
have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in
the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place.
But our political system is dysfunctional: in addressing income
inequality, in confronting climate change and in maintaining national
The National Climatic Data Center has just reported that October was
the 332nd month in a row of above-average global temperatures. As the
environmental Web site Grist reported, that means that nobody younger
than 27 has lived for a single month with colder-than-average global
temperatures, yet climate change wasn’t even much of an issue in the
2012 campaign. Likewise, the World Economic Forum ranks American
infrastructure 25th in the world, down from 8th in 2003-4, yet
infrastructure is barely mentioned by politicians.
So time and again, we see the decline of public services accompanied by
the rise of private workarounds for the wealthy.
Is crime a problem? Well, rather than pay for better policing, move to
a gated community with private security guards!
Are public schools failing? Well, superb private schools have spaces
for a mere $40,000 per child per year.
Public libraries closing branches and cutting hours? Well, buy your own
books and magazines!
Are public parks — even our awesome national parks, dubbed “America’s
best idea” and the quintessential “public good” — suffering from budget
cuts? Don’t whine. Just buy a weekend home in the country!
Public playgrounds and tennis courts decrepit? Never mind — just join a
private tennis club!
I’m used to seeing this mind-set in developing countries like Chad or
Pakistan, where the feudal rich make do behind high walls topped with
shards of glass; increasingly, I see it in our country. The disregard
for public goods was epitomized by Mitt Romney’s call to end financing
of public broadcasting.
A wealthy friend of mine notes that we all pay for poverty in the end.
The upfront way is to finance early childhood education for at-risk
kids. The back-end way is to pay for prisons and private security
guards. In cities with high economic inequality, such as New York and
Los Angeles, more than 1 percent of all employees work as private
security guards, according to census data.
This question of public goods hovers in the backdrop as we confront the
“fiscal cliff” and seek to reach a deal based on a mix of higher
revenues and reduced benefits. It’s true that we have a problem with
rising entitlement spending, especially in health care. But I also
wonder if we’ve reached the end of a failed half-century experiment in
ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy.
Since the 1950s, the top federal income tax rate has fallen from 90
percent or more to 35 percent. Capital gains tax rates have been cut by
more than half since the late 1970s. Financial tycoons now often pay a
lower tax rate than their secretaries.
All this has coincided with the decline of some public services and the
emergence of staggering levels of inequality (granted, other factors
are also at work) such that the top 1 percent of Americans now have
greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
Not even the hum of the most powerful private generator can disguise
the failure of that long experiment.
From flooding maps from Nature Conservancy.
infrastructure upgrades unlikely even after second storm in 14 months
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
November 19, 2012
Guilford -- On a damp, dreary post-Sandy, post-add-insult-to-injury
snowstorm afternoon, Guilford Town Planner George Kral surveyed the
intersection of state road 146, also called Leetes Island Road, and
Sachem's Head Road.
"It floods at extreme high tides under normal conditions and it floods
even more significantly during storms," he said, pointing to where 146
runs under a railroad bridge adjacent to a salt marsh. "During the
recent Sandy, that road was closed under that bridge for several days
because of the high water."
The high water there and elsewhere along the salt marshes that snake
through town meant a number of neighborhoods were cut off from the rest
of Guilford, leaving those who stayed in them at risk since first
responders likely would be unable to reach them.
Guilford, like many shoreline communities, is painfully aware of the
effects on infrastructure of increased incidents of severe weather
coupled with the sea level rise apparent in Long Island Sound. But it's
struggling with how to address recurring flooding and, more to the
point after two devastating storms, Irene and Sandy, in 14 months --
"It's one thing to plan for sea level rise, clearly a long-term
phenomenon," Kral said. "But increasing storm frequency, storm
phenomenon is a little bit hard to get your arms around. When it's
every few years, what do you do about it?"
Along the shoreline, Sandy threatened nearly a dozen electrical
substations with flooding, closed several airports and miles of road
because of high water, and risked power outages at a number of sewage
treatment plants and dozens of pumping stations, which could have had
catastrophic impacts on water quality in the Sound. But few, if any,
communities or state departments seem compelled to make immediate
widespread retrofits to infrastructure to prevent a recurrence in the
"There's no reason to react in a panic because of storms that we had,"
said Robert Smuts, New Haven's chief administrative officer and
director of emergency management. "Reacting in a panic is just as
ridiculous a reaction as pretending that the problem didn't exist
That said, New Haven does plan to work with United Illuminating to
upgrade the Mill River Substation, which had to be pumped out during
Sandy. But the two areas that habitually flood, and did so in both
Irene and Sandy -- the east shore area around Tweed Airport and the
Long Wharf section from the Sound all the way to Union Station and its
large rail yards -- will have to wait their turns.
"The list of the projects on my desk from three weeks ago is pretty
similar to the list on my desk now," Smuts said.
Money is the biggest issue. The Department of Transportation has been
brutally honest that its capital budget is geared to critical repair
and upgrade needs, though climate change is beginning to be factored
into how they are done. But for roads like Route 146, which floods in
many places in Branford as well as Guilford, the DOT does not have the
money to raise problematic sections, let alone the whole road.
"There is simply not enough to chase all the hardening that might be
necessary for these larger storms," said Tom Harley, DOT's chief
engineer, using terminology that refers to the resilience of structures.
And that means even at Sikorsky Airport, which was inundated during
Sandy, an ongoing project to redo the road around it will take
recurring flooding into consideration, but the airport itself will
continue to suffer.
"Do I have x-millions of dollars to take the whole airport and bring it
up 5 feet? Not likely," Harley said. "Are we simply going to fix the
runways over the next 30 years every time water comes up? Yeah --
probably that's all I can do."
At the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Commissioner
Dan Esty said there will be an effort to strenghthen or otherwise
retrofit the electric grid components and sewage treatment plants that
are considered the most vulnerable. But most everything else will focus
on future projects.
"When we finance the upgrade of a sewage treatment plant we are moving
the electronics that manage that infrastructure to a second-story
location," Esty said. "When we fund a new sewage treatment plant as we
have for Mattabassett, it is going to include elements of hardening in
terms of what the design standards are.
"The truth is this involves billions of dollars of infrastructure, and
you can't simply say we're going to redo it in a year or two."
The Nature Conservancy, through its mapping tool called Coastal
Resilience -- which charts the impacts from sea level rise and/or
storms -- predicts that if a Category 3 storm similar to the Hurricane
of 1938 were to occur now in Connecticut, it would flood 645 miles of
roads, 131 miles of railroad track, five rail stations, 10 airports and
13 wastewater treatment plants.
Adam Whelchel, the director of science for the Conservancy in
Connecticut, said the kinds of infrastructure projects that would
address climate issues like these can take decades of planning and
construction, which begs the question of what, if anything, to do now.
"It's a really fair question," he said. "One of the things working
against us in terms of coming up with something meaningful for
infrastructure, we are all these municipalities. If we're going to
solve this, it has to be collectively."
And more than a few people think the state has to take the lead role.
But that's tricky, said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, a member
of the Energy and Transportation committees and a member of the
Shoreline Preservation Task Force, created after Irene to look at a
range of climate change issues along the Sound.
"So much of what we've learned is that action needs to take place on a
municipal level," he said. "It's a lot to ask many municipalities to
make these kind of investments."
On the other hand, he said, state-ordered infrastructure and other
climate-related work "almost comes across as a giant unfunded mandate.
"I think if we set up public-private partnerships, which seem to be
part of the new mantra going forward whereby the onus is not totally on
the government, we can find ways to work collaboratively."
But he and others cautioned against hasty actions.
"We don't want to make investments in the short term that will be
jeopardized over a medium or longer term," said Kral, who in Guilford
also faces the prospect that unchecked flooding threatens to turn his
town's salt marshes into standing water, hampering their ability to do
what salt marshes are supposed to do -- act as sponges and barriers
There is also the matter of a small waterside substation that could be
in jeopardy. And with all properties on septic systems, increased
flooding raises the specter of untreated sewage leaching into the
Sound. The train station and most track areas seem safe, Kral said, but
flooding could mean many people couldn't actually get to the station.
"The thing is that sea level rise and flooding and related issues are
all so very complex, we don't want to do something in an area where we
haven't done enough research," said Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, who
created and heads the Shoreline Preservation Task Force and whose
district, slammed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, sustained less
damage during Sandy. "We want to take a holistic and pragmatic approach
that doesn't cause more harm in the future."
Whatever the solution, many pointed out that officials of all sorts
should not let the crisis that was Sandy go to waste.
"There is an opportunity while this is fresh in people's minds to start
paying greater attention to it," said Steve Cohen, executive director
of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. And that also means
exploring ways for taxpayers to pay for the infrastructure upgrades
that will keep them from losing power and mobility in the next big
"But amnesia is one of the main characteristics of politics," he said.
"And it's important for the political leadership to take advantage of
this teachable moment because it's not going to last for very long."
Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why
By JUSTIN GILLIS and FELICITY BARRINGER, NYTIMES
November 18, 2012
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Even in the off season, the pastel beach
houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good
life. They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal
The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the
most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since
1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and
knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand
onto the roads. Yet time and again, checks from Washington have
allowed the town to put itself back together.
Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on
subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually
with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep
rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large
fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and
other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could
exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.
Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially
duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane...full story here.
Economix - Explaining the Science of Everyday Life
America’s Mid-20th-Century Infrastructure
By UWE E. REINHARDT, NYTIMES
16, 2012, 6:00 am
Europeans visiting the Northeastern United States - and many parts of
the East Coast -- can show their children what Europe's infrastructure
looked like during the 1960s.
In New York, they can take taxis bumping over streets marked by
potholes. European children might find it funny. They can descend into
a dingy and grimy underground world to ride New York City's quaint and
screeching subway system, if they can figure out where trains go.
They can take the children for a ride with Amtrak from New York to the
nation's capital, giggling as the train slowly heaves and rolls, often
in fits and starts, along the rickety tracks. Passengers can be heard
joking that the Navy trains its sailors on this railway system, because
anyone who can make it through two or three cars without bumping into
seated passengers or spilling food on them is fit to go to sea.
If they departed from Pennsylvania Station in New York, they would not
have known until 5 to 10 minutes before departure from which track the
train would leave. And it might not leave on time. In their home
country, the children would have learned that the track from which a
train departs is printed in the train schedule. It is the same every
At Pennsylvania Station, hundreds of passengers wait in suspense for
the announcement of the track and dash to it in a mad rush, running
along the train in a frantic search for a seat. In Europe, one would
have booked a seat in a rail car that stops at a spot shown on a poster
on the track.
Unlike Europe or Asia, where trains typically adhere to the minute to
scheduled times, the departure times in Amtrak's schedules merely
represent a promise that the train will not leave before then. The
actual getaway might be many minutes or even more than an hour after
the scheduled departure time, with any of dozens of different excuses
offered. Brakes on the train stuck. Signal switches malfunctioned.
Electricity was not available to the train for some reason. A train
ahead, on the same track, broke down. And so on.
Arriving at a destination on time, something Europeans take largely for
granted, is relatively rare on Amtrak. Furthermore, the train in Europe
or Asia is likely to have traveled at much higher speed. The tracks
there are so smooth that one could easily carry an open cup of coffee
along several cars or work on the computer.
Why and how Americans, who pride themselves on being fussy consumers,
have put up with this mid-20th-century rail system is a mystery.
Even more wondrous than the archaic subway and rail system and the
potholes in the streets is the system of distributing electric power to
households and factories in large parts of the Northeastern United
States. Power is often still carried on lines that hang in graceful
catenaries of various depths from poles that lean left or right
randomly but rarely stand straight. And which are vulnerable to
powerful storms, like Hurricane Sandy.
When a German high-school classmate visited me, we came upon the
intersection below, less than a mile from the center of Princeton, N.J.
My friend burst out laughing at the abundance of wires in every
direction, something he had seen only on his travels to the developing
In my youth, electric power in Germany's countryside, where I grew up,
was carried on power lines strung from very tall and straight poles.
But for decades now, power lines have been buried underground in
Germany and most of the rest of Europe.
Malte Lehming, opinion-page editor of the Berlin newspaper
Tagesspiegel, noted in his essay "Welcome to America. Take a Number" in
The New York Times:
I spent half a day
hunting for a store with flashlights in stock, because a storm had
knocked out our power. In five decades in Germany I have never
experienced a single power failure, because the power lines are usually
underground and well maintained.
Imagine that - life without power failures! In much of the Northeastern
United States - and perhaps in many other parts of the country as well
- lengthy power disruptions are part of the American way of life. In
Princeton, they occur somewhere in the township after almost every
thunderstorm or snowstorm, as branches snap from trees and take down
vulnerable power lines.
Last fall, for example, after a brief storm dumped wet snow on trees,
many parts of New Jersey, Princeton included, were without power for
about a week. Parts of Connecticut were without power for more than two
In 1958, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith drew attention to
America's neglect of its infrastructure in his famous book, "The
Affluent Society." Alas, his call for a better balance between private
and public infrastructure has gone largely unheeded in this country in
the ensuing half-century.
Our country reminds me of the old tale of a frog that allowed itself to
be cooked to death after it was put in a pan of cold water that was
very gradually heated to the boiling point. Although apparently there
is no scientific basis for that tale -- biologists say the frog would
jump out -- we do seem to act like that frog, as our infrastructure
ever-so-gradually steadily decays around us.
Instead of setting about to bring our infrastructure up to 21st-century
standards - which might, alas, involve more of the much detested
public-sector investment -- we angrily and yet meekly suffer for days
or weeks without light, heat and transportation, verbally shaking our
fists at the power companies but leaving it at that.
We are, at most, prepared to stock our households with flashlights and
candles and, if we have the money, buy portable generators that can
produce a modest amount of electricity, albeit at great expense. How
can this be an efficient way of bringing electric power to households?
In so many ways the United States is a great country. The American
people are innovative and hard-working, more so than most Europeans. It
amazes me that they put up so fatalistically with this old-fashioned
and decaying infrastructure.
Uwe E. Reinhardt is an economics professor
From the I-BBC
Run overhead power lines
New York Post
By SALLY GOLDENBERG
Last Updated: 3:48 PM, November 13, 2012
Posted: 3:45 PM, November 13, 2012
Forcing utilities to bury overhead lines is one of the more
eye-catching – and expensive – suggestions City Council Speaker
Christine Quinn put forth in a half policy, half campaign speech
Quinn, a likely candidate for mayor next year, delivered a lengthy
speech on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy when she addressed the
pro-business group Association for a Better New York. Her ideas would
cost about $20 billion, she said.
She indicated she would use the Council’s authority to force Con Edison
and other state-run utilities to put certain power lines underground to
prevent major outages in future storms, though her staff later said it
was unclear which lines would be included n the proposal or whether she
will, in fact, propose such legislation.
Mayor Bloomberg, who would have to approve such a bill, said “I don’t
know where the money would come from – buried wires are a very
Quinn is also pressing Mayor Bloomberg and the Army Corps of Engineers
to study whether to build storm surge barriers to protect flood-prone
areas, like the Rockaways and sections of Staten Island.
"Clearly we need to strengthen our infrastructure to prepare us for the
effects of climate change, particularly as we rebuild in areas
devastated by Sandy," she said.
Bloomberg later replied, “It would take billions and billions of
dollars. … You’d be doing it from the Florida Keys to the Northern edge
of Maine. And building a barrier along the whole Atlantic Coast is not
something even science could handle, much less the finances of our
Meanwhile the City Council yesterday approved the $500 million budget
modification to allocate funds for emergency repairs to schools and
hospitals in the wake of Sandy.
Root cause: Tree Board aims to revive role, programs
Liotta, Westport News
Updated 9:05 am, Saturday, February 16, 2013
Tree Board, hoping to plant the seeds of renewal for its role in town
government, is looking for help.
"We're trying to revitalize the Tree Board," Pamela Klomberg, the
chairwoman of the board, which now has only three members, said at
Friday's meeting of the panel.
Klomberg currently serves on a state task force appointed by Gov.
Dannel Malloy, the purpose of which she said "is to develop templates
for municipalities to manage their urban forests."
Following the severe storms of the last few years, questions of tree
liability and management have prompted state officials to consider
options and ideas about maintaining both forested lands and trees in
developed areas, many of which may be implemented by local governments.
"We represent a municipality that is not yet, doesn't yet, have a
cohesive urban forest management plan," Klomberg said.
"Are these things the town wants?" she said. "We don't know, but I
think that our task is to suggest and recommend best practices."
Westport now allocates enough funding to pay for a tree warden's
services only one day a week. Money is also limited for the monitoring,
removal, planting, maintenance and pruning of trees. First Selectman
Gordon Joseloff's proposed budget for 2013-14, however, includes a
$170,000 to create a full-time tree warden position and to increase the
town's overall tree work.
The two other board members -- Judy James and Tracey Hammer -- are
focusing on websites and social media to spread the word about the
board and its mission.
"It's an opportunity to get our story out -- what we're doing, engage
participation," Klomberg said. "And we have a partner that is willing
to help us do this (computer) work."
Klomberg said volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, including
networking, outreach, education and, potentially, political action.
"We have been a town historically of removal," said John Broadbin,
deputy director of the Department of Public Works, "with a one day per
week part time tree warden.
He said his department wants additional funds for more tree cutting,
stump grinding, replanting and pruning.
Klomberg said she is "very hopeful" the Board of Finance will approve
the preliminary budget, with the additional money for tree work and
personnel, at its March 6 meeting.
Klomberg would also like to see the Westport Tree Board get involved
with a May tree festival in Norwalk.
"Norwalk has a number of organizations that collaborate with the
Department of Public Works in their urban forest initiatives," she
said. "I attended last year and was really impressed with the
exhibitors and opportunities for public education."
This year, she said, Norwalk is inviting surrounding towns to
participate in the free event.
"Westport has the opportunity to take a table ... and we can do
whatever we like with that table," Klomberg said. "I think it's a
really great opportunity for us to engage the public and educate
By Susan Wolf on November 15, 2012 - adapted for Weston
New England would not be New England without its trees,
nor would Weston be the town it is today if its landscape were only
sparsely dotted by trees.
Trees are not the villains in the latest round of power outages
besieging the area — blame Mother Nature for that. They do, however,
need to be managed better.
But it’s not just the town — nor just the state, the federal
government, nor CL&P — that needs to do the managing. There needs
to be an appropriate balance among those responsible for trees in the
The town only deals with trees on its property; CL&P takes care of
tree trimming and cutting with regard to its utility lines and
residents are responsible for the trees on their properties.
No one wants another layer of bureaucracy when it comes to trees, but a
program needs to be developed — and one was talked about in the state
legislature last year — to encourage property owners to pay more
attention to trees on their property, especially those near their homes
and adjacent to town or state roadways. The town can verbalize an
over-arching philosophy on tree management, but it’s individual
residents who will make the most difference by doing something about it.
If CL&P wants to cut down or trim a tree on private property and
the homeowner resists, who should be responsible for the damage caused
if the tree or its limbs fall on electric wires? Or on a car? Or a
passing pedestrian or bicycle rider?
Homeowners, like the town and CL&P, have a responsibility to have a
licensed arborist inspect suspect trees, and to take care of them, even
if it means paying to cut them down or trim them.
The town highway department and CL&P have tree management plans,
but more is needed. Some municipalities actually have a plan in place
that would help the town and its property owners decide what kinds of
trees are better suited near a roadside, or under a power line or near
a home. So when a tree dies or is damaged by disease or wind, there is
a resource in place to help decide what should be planted in its place.
To cut down trees willy nilly because they are under a power line or
near a road seems to go too far. Trees are beautiful and have many
advantages. Keeping these trees healthy and replacing them with more
appropriate trees when needed just makes more sense.
Putting all power lines underground, as some have proposed, may be a
partial solution years down the road, but it is unrealistic to think
this would happen in the near future. There is merit to looking to more
undergrounding as new lines are needed or as lines are being replaced —
but even underground cables do not ensure no power outages.
There is only so much that can be done to catch trees before they or
their limbs fall. High winds and storms are not going away, but better
preparations can be made, not only from the standpoint of managing
trees but also from the standpoint of people being better prepared when
there are outages.
Tree debris: Weston deals with familiar post-storm dilemma
By Kimberly Donnelly on November 15, 2012
A freak warm-weather storm with hurricane-force winds followed
by an early fall snowstorm; blocked roads and extended power outages;
comfort stations, charging stations, and more than a week of school
cancellations. As Yogi Berra said, it’s déjà vu all over
Now that the immediate crisis has passed in Weston — roads
are clear, electricity, heat, water, phones, Internet and cable are
restored, snow is melted, school is back in session — Westonites are
once again dealing with a familiar aftermath to the storm damage: trees.
“Unfortunately, the same thing that makes Weston beautiful
and bucolic — the reason many of us want to live here — is also what
causes us such problems,” said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein.
Superstorm Sandy took down thousands of branches and trees
when it slammed into the northeastern seaboard and plowed its way
through Weston. There were more than 220 road blockages caused by
felled trees, and hundreds more cases of property damage. And, of
course, there was again the problem of trees tangled in utility wires.
But unlike last year, this year blame for power outages and
road closures couldn’t necessarily be placed on trees that were “too
close” to power lines, or those that were weighted down by a
combination of leaves and snow.
Sean McNamara, neighboring Redding’s tree warden (Weston has
yet to fill its tree warden position), said the difference between
Sandy and the October snowstorm in 2011 was the type of trees that fell.
Most of the damage from Sandy was to evergreen trees (spruce
and pine), he said. “They took the brunt of the storm. Last year, it
was oak trees.”
Oak trees tend to hold on to leaves longer into the season,
so last year when it snowed in October, the weight brought down trees,
“This year, we had the hurricane and the leaves blew off with
the wind, but the wind caused evergreens to fall because they are
resisting the wind and those are the types that came down with this
hurricane,” he said.
This October was also a wet one, which is why a lot of trees
were uprooted, Mr. McNamara said.
First Selectman Weinstein was on site with tree crews at
scores of downed tree locations across town the past few weeks. What
she noticed was that most of what fell were tall, healthy pine trees.
Also notable was how wide but shallow the root systems were
on many of the downed pine trees. “Part of it, I have heard, is in
Weston there is so much rock ledge that’s relatively close to the
surface, so the trees can’t be rooted as deeply as they might
otherwise,” Ms. Weinstein said.
As aggressive as the town, the state, and Connecticut Light
& Power (CL&P) have been the last year in trimming trees near
power lines and roads, Ms. Weinstein said with Sandy, it didn’t really
matter. Much of the damage was caused by trees that were healthy and
not necessarily close to power lines or houses.
Tree maintenance efforts focus on trying to prevent “average
outages,” which most often are caused by squirrels in transformers or
branches knocking into power lines, she said. “You can’t remove every
tree within 50 feet” of power lines, roads or houses, or there would be
no trees left in town, she said.
As they did in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and the
October nor’easter in 2011, Westonites post-Sandy are again left
asking, Who is responsible for cleaning up the mess left by Mother
What residents discovered last year still holds true:
Determining just whose property a given tree is on — and therefore who
is responsible for cleaning it up if it falls — is not as cut and dried
as it might seem.
Roads (other than state or private roads) are obviously town
property. But so is an area on the side of the road — the town
right-of-way — along the edge of what is usually someone’s yard.
But according to John Conte, the town engineer, there is no
set measurement used to determine the town right-of-way for every road
in town, such as a certain number of feet from the center line or from
the edge of the pavement. Instead, the town relies on survey maps on
file; anything within the private property line is the landowner’s
responsibility; anything on the other side of the line is the town’s.
But many trees and all power lines lie within CL&P
easements, which are conveyed to CL&P by the state legislature.
Regardless of where a tree trunk is rooted, once branches encroach on
CL&P easements — once they get close to the wires — they become the
jurisdiction of CL&P and neither the town nor private property
owners may do tree work in those areas.
Who cleans it up?
When it comes to trees that do come down, several scenarios
• A tree is on town property and falls on town property. The
town cleans it up.
• A tree is on town property and it falls on both town
property and private property. The town clears up to the town/private
property line. The property owner is responsible for anything that
lands on his property. Sometimes, the town will clear town trees that
land on private property, although it is not obligated to do so.
• A tree is on private property and it falls on private
property. It is the property owner’s responsibility.
• A tree is on private property and falls on both private and
town property. The town clears only what is on town property; the land
owner is responsible for the rest.
• A tree is on private property and falls causing damage or
injuries. The property owner is liable for damage.
• A tree is on town property and falls causing damage or
injuries. The town is liable for damage.
Residents are reminded not to leave branches and other debris
from their property on the side of the road — the town will not be
picking it up.
The town contracted with a company to pick up its tree debris
from roadsides, and the state did the same along the state roads that
run through town (routes 57 and 53).
Residents, however, are responsible for removing their own
tree debris. Thanks to temporary authorization from the state
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the town
transfer station accepted debris for no charge for two and a half weeks
after the storm, until yesterday, Nov. 14.
Now, however, residents must either store debris on their own
property or have it removed privately.
Hersam Acorn reporter Kaitlin Bradshaw contributed to
Coastal management legislation
balances environmental concerns with property rights
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
May 9, 2012
In Connecticut's post-storms legislative world, most of the focus has
been on how to make sure power outages like the ones the state suffered
in August and October never happen again.
But for communities along the shoreline, where some buildings are still
in disrepair, seawalls remain crumpled and some landscapes were altered
permanently by Tropical Storm Irene, how quickly the lights come back
on may be secondary when homes and businesses are flooded or even
destroyed, and beachfront property is washed away. Legislation to
protect the shoreline from such ravages of future storms, as well as
the compounding impact of sea level rise, has passed the General
While it stops far short of a list of mandates, it does represent a
sea-change -- so to speak -- in what the state considers necessary to
manage the shoreline in light of a changing environment and, generally,
more concern about it. For the first time in Connecticut, sea
level rise is specifically mentioned among the criteria for coastal
planning, and it is to be considered in the revision later this year to
the state's Plan of Conservation and Development.
"I think the fact that sea level rise is being mentioned in statute is
an important first step," said Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, whose
community was especially hard-hit, and who has taken a leading role in
shoreline issues, including chairing the recently created Shoreline
Preservation Task Force.
The legislation takes another bold philosophical step in specifically
calling for minimizing "shoreline armoring." In other words -- seawalls.
The case against seawalls
After Irene, local, state and federal officials repeatedly called for
more seawalls to better protect shoreline property. At the same time,
scientists largely warned against such efforts. Many shoreline geology
experts noted that seawalls typically magnify wave action, causing
"scouring," a digging out of areas beneath walls, which makes the waves
even bigger, causing even more erosion. And they noted that sea level
rise would make those waves bigger still.
The legislation spells out specific "feasible, less environmentally
damaging alternatives" to classic shoreline armoring. Those listed
include moving inhabited structures farther from the water, raising
them, restoring or creating dunes and employing any of a number of
techniques under the category of "living shorelines."
That could include tidal wetland vegetation, salt marsh restoration,
sand fill and other types of natural means to disperse or absorb water.
It's a concept supporters say has proven successful in the Chesapeake
Bay and elsewhere. Communities are not forced to approve such
methods, but the legislation essentially enables them to if they so
"It's a proactive offensive approach rather than the defense armoring,"
Albis said. "We want to make sure more people are aware of different
"We're really doing some revolutionary stuff here."
But it took a somewhat Herculean bipartisan effort to get to that
point. Several bills were incorporated into the final version;
most notably two -- one from the House, one from the Senate -- that
were about as polarizing as they come.
A Republican-backed bill was blasted by environmentalists who felt it
would force communities to approve virtually all armoring proposals
like seawalls. And environmentalists backed another that incensed more
than a few legislators and others with this language:
encourage a fair and orderly legal process to foster strategic retreat
of property ownership, over a period of several decades, for coastal
lands that have a likelihood of being lost due to erosion and coastal
lands that contain structures that are subject to repetitive damage."
Intense negotiations resulted in an almost entirely new bill with a
first line that asserts "the rights of private property owners."
"I think it's a lot better bill in many regards," said Sen. Len Fasano,
a Republican who not only represents East Haven, but also owns a house
and a beach club there; the latter sustained serious damage in Irene.
He had backed the Republican bill.
"This opens it up to whole new ways to protect the shoreline; it's kind
of cool," said Fasano who admitted he was intrigued by some of the
living shoreline techniques for his own property. "I'm definitely going
take a look at it."
Most credit Fasano and David Sutherland, director of government
relations for the Connecticut office of the Nature Conservancy, with
forging the compromise, and each man has nothing but accolades for the
other now. But Sutherland chose his words carefully and disputed
that his group's goals may have fallen short. "Not at this point," he
said. "We don't live in a pure ecological world. We live in a world
with a lot of different factors we need to take into account.
"It was a compromise," he said. "The bill is an accurate reflection and
a very appropriate bill for where we're all at right now."
Among its other critical points, the legislation redefines the "high
tide line" as a "coastal jurisdiction line" that is more predictable
than the actual tide line. The Department of Energy and Environmental
Protection retains jurisdiction for structures on the water side of it.
Municipalities oversee those on the land side.
In both cases, if an application for a flood or erosion control
structure is denied, the legislation would now require DEEP or the
local government to provide the applicant with less environmentally
damaging alternatives to consider.
Under current law, seawall building is restricted to the replacement of
existing ones and new ones around critical infrastructure and inhabited
structures built before 1980. Those categories are expanded in the
legislation to include inhabited structures built as recently as 1995
and cemeteries. The bill also includes establishment of a pilot
program to explore innovative approaches to coastal management, calls
for a shoreline management study and authorizes academic institutions
to develop science and engineering programs to support coastal
At this point there are no full-throated objections to the legislation.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities had opposed earlier
versions that it thought tied the hands of local government.
"It certainly has been modified, and we appreciate the efforts made,"
said Kachina Walsh-Weaver, CCM's senior legislative associate, who said
that officially CCM does not support the legislation. "Our basic
concerns with the bill is how it will play out over time."
The Connecticut Marine Trades Association, which represents about 300
marinas and boatyards, had also been concerned about earlier versions,
and specifically the private property threat.
"I'm cautiously optimistic with changes that have been made," said
Grant Westerson, the association president. "Am I in love with it? No.
But enough changes have been made in the bill that we can deal with it."
Westerson and others noted that the new shoreline task force, as well
as the recently created Long Island Sound Caucus, would provide
opportunities to work on many thorny coastal management issues in a way
that complements the legislation.
"This bill came out so fast," he said. "Why are we doing this now?
We've got a task force that's been appointed. Let them do their job and
see what comes out."
Which is exactly what Albis intends to do, eventually picking up the
difficult issue of whether to continue to rebuild in flood-prone areas.
"While there is a lot of work to do, I'm happy that the task force has
time to look at other solutions," he said. "The legislation provides a