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ComEd, DeKalb Park District, Citizens Working On Replanting Path

A small group of stakeholders will meet at the end of the month to craft a plan to remedy ComEd’s clear-cutting along a DeKalb nature trail. Members of the DeKalb Park District, ComEd representatives, and two people who live near the popular trail make up the panel. 

In late November, crews hired by ComEd began clearing all trees and brush under their power lines that run along the mile-long path. Citizens were surprised…and outraged. DeKalb resident Ron Cress is not on the new panel, but he’s behind a proposal from the citizen’s group. He wants a company specializing in native plant restoration to oversee the project -- and plenty of opportunities for volunteers to help out.

Get rid of the aggressive non-natives that are there now, because they left a lot of honeysuckle. And with any new plant material that comes in, be it trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, ought to be native.

The plan is going to be expensive. DeKalb Park District Board president Joan Berkes-Hanson says ComEd has committed to working with the district to create a sustainable, compatible plan for the entire path.

I had also asked that they commit to a specific dollar amount and they didn’t. But I see babysteps of progress and I truly believe that that’s the way we have to approach this.

The panel’s first meeting is January 29th.

ComEd’s Communications Director Judy Rader did not want to comment when reached after the meeting, but says she will soon. The letter from Com Ed to the Park District is posted below.

January 9, 2013

Ms. Joan Berkes-Hanson

Board President

DeKalb Park District

1403 Sycamore Road

DeKalb, IL 60115

Dear Ms. Berkes-Hanson:

ComEd is submitting this letter to the DeKalb Park District Board to outline the agreed

upon approach that ComEd and the Board plan to take regarding vegetation management

within ComEd’s right-of-way along a 1.3 mile stretch of the DeKalb Nature Trail (the


ComEd greatly values its relationship with the Park District and the larger community

and we regret that our actions have caused concern among some members of the

community. We hope that we can work constructively on a solution that meets the needs

of all stakeholders. While we appreciate the aesthetics of the Trail, the reliability of the

electrical grid is vital to the community.

As we continue to have discussions, I want to ensure that the Board has a clear

understanding of the context within which ComEd acted and our plans moving forward.

• Following the major East Coast electrical blackout of 2003, the Federal Energy

Regulatory Commission (FERC) and all its stakeholders necessarily placed

greater emphasis on vegetation maintenance practices below high-voltage

electrical lines such as the one at issue here.

• We continue to follow industry best practices when performing tree and

vegetation clearing and maintenance around our lines.

• We understand that some residents are upset about ComEd’s recent clearing of

vegetation along the Trail. This feedback is very helpful to improving how we

communicate vegetation management work in the future. We want to be sure all

parties are aware that the Park District was not involved in planning or

authorizing that effort.

• The power line along this easement is a high voltage 138 kV transmission line.

Although this particular line does not fall under FERC jurisdiction, ComEd’s

vegetation management policy is to follow standard FERC line clearance

requirements for all such high voltage lines. 138 kV lines are part of the critical

backbone of our electric system. A line of this voltage typically feeds several

substations that can serve over 20,000 customers each, so we must not lose sight

of the importance of this line to the broader community. The cleared vegetation

included species of trees that would eventually grow into this line.

• ComEd supports planting new vegetation along the Trail and is committed to

working collaboratively with the DeKalb Park District as described below to

create a compatible and sustainable vegetation plan along the Trail as long as it

still meets ComEd’s height limitations.

• ComEd understands that the Park District has recently developed a small panel of

stakeholders that includes two Park Board Commissioners, Park District staff,

ComEd and 2 to 3 members of the public. We will work with the panel to create a

long-term sustainable plan for the Trail that will consider methods of vegetation

management along the entire Trail that are compatible with high voltage electrical

lines and erosion control while at the same time promoting wildlife habitat and


As you know, ComEd has met with the Park District staff twice over the last few weeks

to discuss objectives for the Trail. We understand that the recently formed panel is first

scheduled to meet on January 29,2013. We look forward to working with the panel and

the Board in the coming weeks.


Fidel Marquez 

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.
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