LETTER: We can do much better job of being prepared in Surrey

We can’t do much about inclement weather, but we can certainly do a much better job of preparing ourselves for its consequences.

A few days after having power restored

The Editor,

Re: “A windy wake-up call,” the Now, Sept. 3.

Welcome to another season of violent windstorms.

The first arrived three months ahead of schedule but with results predictably the same: major property damage, fallen trees everywhere, hundreds of businesses closed and extensive and extended power failures – in our neighbourhood for about 60 hours

With the next storms this fall and winter, we can also expect school closures and discomfort to those infirm, elderly and reliant on electricity to start their furnace.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can’t do much about inclement weather, but we can certainly do a much better job of preparing ourselves for its consequences.

Much of the problem, as we all know, is caused by fallen branches and toppled trees. Trees grow taller and older every year, but they don’t live forever. Newton’s law still applies, and what goes up must eventually come down.

Surrey’s solution to power line rights-of-way is to cut tunnels through the tree canopy. The fact that a ton or more of branches may be left above the power line, just waiting for the next storm, is of no consequence. For their part, property owners are advised that any tree over 12 inches in diameter but located more than one meter from the foundation cannot be cut down, no matter its height.

In all this, Surrey city hall is contributing significantly to the problem as a result of its inane and inflexible tree bylaw. So here are a few suggestions:

  • Allow BC Hydro to do the sensible thing and remove all tall native trees adjacent to local power lines and replace them with species more appropriate and less brittle.
  • All tall native trees on rights-of-way adjacent to city streets should be replaced as above, the worst offenders being firs, cottonwoods, big leaf maples and alders.
  • Give property owners a little slack and allow them to remove any tall tree they believe a danger to the safety of their loved ones and property. A recommended minimum safe distance from both house and incoming overhead power lines for a 30-metre tree might be perhaps 10 or 15 metres, but certainly more than three.

Chris Hodgson, Surrey

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