UNION, NJ — Township residents will soon see a significant number of trees removed from along sidewalks and roads under PSE&G’s electrical upgrade program and the municipality’s 2019 road program.
PSE&G has proposed routes for connecting the three electrical substations in the township using aboveground and buried 69 kilovolt power lines; the initial phase involves connecting the substations on Stanley Terrace and Springfield Road. These upgrades are intended to add resiliency and redundancy to the electrical grid to reduce the frequency of outages in the township.
“Superstorm Sandy in 2012 devastated the town with extended power outages for weeks in some sectors. This program is intended to provide a reliable source of power particularly during severe weather events,” township spokeswoman Natalie Pineiro said in an email on Jan. 14.
In order to accommodate new 75-foot utility poles, the installation of which began more than a year ago, many trees will be removed because their canopies conflict with the wires. And those with overgrown roots that can buckle or damage new sidewalk and curbs will also be removed.
On Winslow Avenue alone, a total of 37 trees will be removed — 13 due to the town’s road improvements — during the first phase of PSE&G’s program, which will be completed this year.
The removed trees will be replaced once both programs are complete.
PSE&G will remove the stumps and replant two trees in the public right-of-way for each tree removed. And the township also will plant two trees for every one removed due to the road program.
Funding for this replanting effort on Winslow Avenue comes from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Local Aid Grant Program, according to Pineiro.
The township also administers a tree-planting program, in which residents can request a tree be planted on the township’s right-of-way adjacent to their property, regardless of tree removals.
“The requests go through our Department of Public Works, who then compile a list and perform the plantings once per year based on availability,” Pineiro said.
At the Jan. 8 Township Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Joseph Florio, who was conducting the meeting in Mayor Michele Delisfort’s absence, assured a concerned resident about the township’s replanting program, saying Union, “has a very aggressive tree planting program. The ones that PSE&G do not replace, we will.”
Orange Avenue resident David Braham approached the committee at the meeting about the large-scale tree removal around Winslow Avenue in Biertuempfel Park.
“This is the first time I’ve felt the need to even speak at a meeting,” he said, adding that the park, “is one of the biggest green spaces in our town and now it’s going to look barren. Environmental concerns are global and I don’t think we should be making it worse.”
Florio told Braham that the tree removal associated with PSE&G’s program is controlled by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
“They have pretty much the right to do anything they want,” Florio said. “This all came to the forefront with Superstorm Sandy,” assistant township engineer Phil Harderer told Braham. “We lost power in many sectors of the town because of trees that came down.”
Braham also expressed concern that fully grown trees are being completely removed and being replaced by saplings, saying, “It takes generations for newly planted trees to mature.”
PSE&G will be undertaking similar work on other local roads in Union as part of this initial phase including Commerce Avenue, Rahway Avenue, Morrison Avenue and Stanley Terrace.
Subsequent phases next year involve connecting the Stanley Terrace and Vauxhall substations. Connecting the Springfield and Vauxhall substations will involve work on other local roads including Hillcrest Terrace, Pleasant Parkway, Ostwood Terrace, Walker Avenue, Oakland Avenue, Springfield Road, Caldwell Avenue, Sayre Road and Erhardt Street, Pineiro told LocalSource.