Photo: Sun Sentinel
“Toppled trees left many South Florida residents in the dark after Hurricane Irma…
Ninety percent of FPL’s customers, or 13 million people, lost power as a result of Irma.
One of those people without power for 10 days was Broward County Commissioner (and former Broward Mayor) Barbara Sharief, and she’s determined that’s not going to happen again — at least not because of overgrown trees.
Sharief is proposing an ordinance that would fine property owners who violate FPL’s ‘Right Tree, Right Place’ program.
Expected to be on the Broward commission’s agenda in April or early May, the ordinance would fine owners $500 if they fail to relocate, replace or remove trees that don’t meet the ‘Right Tree’ code, and $500 if a property owner fails to properly prune an existing tree that may violate the code, or fails to notify FPL of a tree that can’t be brought to code..
Parkland adopted a similar ordinance after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma…
In a letter by FPL attorney Kenneth Rubin to the Public Service Commission, FPL estimated it would cost $8 million to $9 million more to trim half the territory every two years, instead of a third every three years, which is currently the practice.
‘Legislation, particularly at the local level (e.g., municipal and county ordinances), could be enacted that restricts the type and location of vegetation that can be planted in the vicinity of power lines. Legislation could also provide electric utilities additional rights to address existing vegetation conditions on customers’ property that impede operation or maintenance of utility facilities,’ wrote Rubin in his response to state regulators’ questions regarding recent hurricane damage.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams said he would like to see the county and FPL work together on the issue.
‘We’re a heavily landscaped county. There are some old neighborhoods where the trees have been existing for ages,’ he said.
Norm Easey, CEO of the Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture in Sarasota, said FPL does a good job of vegetation management in the state, but ‘we don’t help ourselves. There are many communities that are OK with planting huge trees underneath power lines.’
Still, the overgrowth is not completely the fault of cities or homeowners, Easey said, adding that FPL has been known to put in a power line ‘where maybe they shouldn’t. If you don’t have your ducks in a row, don’t put in the power line.’
…FPL and other electric utility customers can provide feedback online at Floridapsc.com. To leave a comment, click on ‘Consumer Comments on Hurricane Preparedness and Restoration’ in red letters…”
— Marcia Heroux Pounds,Sun Sentinel