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W&OD Trail Board Matter
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Since the July 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, articles about this initiative can be found in The Washington Post, Northern Virginia Journal, on 630AM (WMAL), 88.5FM (WAMU), ABC 7 news and other media outlets


Chairman Connolly, Supervisors Smyth and Hudgins

July 26, 2004

Madam Chairman: On Friday, July 23, I emailed Board members the attached letter and resolution pertaining to the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. The letter is to be signed by Chairman Connolly pending approval of this motion and is addressed to the State Corporation Commission (SCC).

Specifically, the letter requests that the SCC direct Dominion Virginia Power to suspend all non-emergency clearance activities along the W&OD Trail. Delegates Jim Scott and Steve Shannon convened a meeting on June 28, 2004 to discuss this issue. At the Board's June 21, 2004 meeting, we expressed our deep concern over the impacts of the line clearance.

Subsequently, the Fairfax County Tree Commission passed a resolution (also attached) dealing with this matter.

Therefore, I move that the Board approve and send the attached letter to Chairman Theodore V. Morrison, Jr. (SCC) and that the Board endorse the Tree Commission Resolution of June 23, 2004.

Letter to the State Corporation Commission:

Theodore V. Morrison, Jr., Chairman
State Corporation Commission
ATTN: Clerk's Office
1300 E. Main Street
P. O. Box 1197
Richmond, Virginia 23218

Dear Chairman Morrison:

The purpose of this letter is to request your assistance in serious matters relating to current vegetation line clearance activities along the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail in Fairfax County. More specifically, we request that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) immediately direct Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) to suspend all non-emergency clearance activities along the trail until such time that consensus is reached concerning the nature of practices used in vegetation clearance operations along the entire length of the W&OD trail in Fairfax County.

At its June 21, 2004 meeting, after receiving numerous inquiries from Fairfax County residents, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors discussed the intention of DVP to drastically prune and clear-cut vegetation within the electrical transmission line easement located on Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's (NVRPA) W&OD Trail property. After discussing this operation, the Board expressed its deep concern over the probable environmental, social and recreational impacts of the line clearance, and directed County staff to prepare a report on the subject for immediate Board action.

Shortly after that discussion, on June 28, 2004, a meeting was convened by Virginia State Delegates James M. Scott and Stephen C. Shannon to facilitate a discussion of the proposed line clearance by various stakeholders. This meeting was attended by citizens from affected communities, Providence District Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth, the Mayor of the Town of Vienna, Vienna Town Council Members, NVRPA staff, County staff, and representatives of DVP.

The Clark-Idylwood section of the transmission line was the focus of the meeting, and is located along the W&OD Trail between Clarks Crossing and Idylwood Roads, an area that lies within heavily populated sections of Fairfax County and the Town of Vienna. DVP indicated that previous line clearance practices along this section of the easement had taken into account environmental, recreational and social impacts; however, they recently re-evaluated the practices used in this area, and determined these to leave inadequate distances between the vegetation and the transmission lines. DVP also stated that Federal regulators are pressuring electrical utility companies to apply more stringent clearance practices as the result of stricter industry standards for transmission line reliability that were instituted following the August 2003, blackout in the northeast. Based on this re-evaluation of local vegetation clearance conditions and alleged Federal pressure, DVP staff determined that more drastic forms of vegetation clearance were needed to guarantee safety and electrical reliability. While DVP admitted that application of their new practices will not remove the level of vegetation they would prefer to eliminate, these practices will still result in more severe impacts to the vegetation than in past operations. DVP indicated that the vegetation clearance along this section of the easement will be scheduled on a three-year cycle, and the effectiveness of the new clearance practices will be re-evaluated after the initial three-year period. If DVP finds the new practices inadequate, more extensive clearing may be required. These statements alarmed many of the participants, and generated considerable conversation and questions. In fact, several participants familiar with the Federal position on the 2003, blackout contested DVP statements about trees playing a major role in that event.

In response to the many concerns and questions, DVP staff agreed to participate in a taskforce formed to examine the clearing practices used along the W&OD trail within Fairfax County. DVP suggested that this taskforce was an opportunity for DVP to work with stakeholders, and an opportunity for our community to generate a list of line clearance "preferences" which they would consider using in future operations.

The W&OD taskforce has now been populated with private citizens, members and staff from our Board of Supervisors, DVP staff, NVRPA staff, a County Tree Commissioner, the County Urban Forester, and representatives of the Reston Association. The first taskforce meeting was convened on-site, July 19. 2004. During that meeting, a section of the W&OD trail was reviewed while DVP articulated anticipated effects of the new line clearance practices, their safety concerns and tree replacement policies. Citizen members of the taskforce proposed forming a smaller group of professionals that have the expertise necessary to examine specific clearance practices and make recommendations to the larger taskforce. In response to that suggestion, DVP agreed to participate in a five-person W&OD Trail "patrol team" that would conduct an annual walk-though of the trail, prepare an annual vegetation management plan, a tree and vegetation replacement plan, and inspect the line clearance work for conformance to the vegetation management plan. It was agreed that the team will consist of the following professional staff:

1. A DVP forester
2. A DVP engineer
3. A representative of the line clearance contractor
4. A NVRPA representative
5. The Fairfax County Urban Forester

We feel that DVP agreed to this team arrangement in good faith and best of intentions; however, they also indicated that they intend to continue clearing vegetation using their new, more stringent clearance standards while the taskforce works on the vegetation management plan. We feel that their intention to continue clearing without benefit of the consensus-based plan erodes the spirit of cooperation established by the W&OD taskforce, and will unnecessarily remove a considerable amount of trees and vegetation.

In order to address the valid concerns expressed by our community, we request that the SCC direct DVP to immediately cease all non-emergency vegetation clearance operations along the entire length of the W&OD trail within Fairfax County, until a consensus-based vegetation management plan is produced as agreed upon by all the W&OD taskforce parties, including DVP.

In addition to ceasing all non-emergency clearance activities, Fairfax County requests that the SCC direct DVP to do the following:

  • consult with the Fairfax County Urban Forester before performing emergency line clearance work so the community can rest assured that any clearance work preformed is absolutely necessary to ensure electrical reliability, trail safety, and line clearance contractor safety,
  • perform all tree work in accordance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) pruning standards (ANSI A300 [Part 1]-2001), and safety standards (ANSI Z133.1),
  • adhere to our local Chesapeake Bay Ordinance protection practices and policies where clearance activities have potential to impact Resource Protection areas,
  • devote significant monetary and staff resources to the replacement of trees and shrubs lost to transmission line clearance by replacing 100 percent of the lost canopy with appropriate tree and shrub species within a twenty year time frame,
  • replace vegetation with native trees, shrubs and groundcovers with high wildlife value, capable of providing screening and cooling shade, and known not to cause conflicts with high voltage power lines at maturity, and to require periodic pruning or removal,
  • protect the current high quality of recreational experience that this trail currently offers to residents of Fairfax County and Northern Virginia, and
  • enter into a permanent agreement with NVRPA and our community to abide by the consensus based results of W&OD Trail line clearance taskforce.

We feel these expectations are resonable and necessary to ensure that DVP will do its utmost to cooperate with the W&OD taskforce to arrive at a solution that balances their need to supply electrical demands, with the our community's right to enjoy a healthy environment, gain meaningful recreational experiences, and protect its quality of life.



Gerald E. Connolly
Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

cc: Honorable Mark Warner, Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
James M. Scott, Virginia State Delegate, 53rd District
Stephen C. Shannon, Virginia State Delegate, 35th District
Clinton Miller, Commissioner, Virginia State Corporation Commission
Mark C. Christie, Commissioner, Virginia State Corporation Commission
Barbara Hildreth, Chairman, W&OD Taskforce



Trees and Transmission Lines along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD)

Adopted 23 June 2004

Whereas, the choice between competing social goods must be made in light of fairly-evaluated costs and benefits;

Whereas, the W&OD Trail is an important asset for Fairfax, meeting community needs for mixed-use trails in a tree-lined natural setting and providing a regionally significant cultural and natural resource;

Whereas the W&OD trees:

  • improve air quality by removing gaseous air pollution and by intercepting airborne particles such as dust, soot and pollen;
  • improve water quality by retaining stormwater, filtering runoff, decreasing erosion, and shading streams and wetlands;
  • serve as outdoor air conditioners by providing shade, and by cooling the air by the process of transpiration;
  • provide exceptional aesthetic qualities to trail users and nearby residents, including peaceful vistas, sound buffers, and seasonal beauty;
  • provide important wildlife habitat, including vertical structure, movement corridors, and shelter for young animals;
  • provide a rare and dwindling opportunity for humans to connect with nature in a wooded environments and many users of the trail feel a strong emotional connection to these public areas;

Whereas specimen trees such as several White Oaks between Vienna and Dunn Loring on the W&OD are especially valuable as well as especially vulnerable to removal or improper pruning;

Whereas, the right-of-way for a Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) high-voltage transmission line follows the W&OD Trail, and a primary concern of DVP is providing reliable power in a safe manner;

Whereas, the extent of removal of trees from sections of the DVP right-of-way in recent months has alarmed nearby residents and other trail users, who were not aware in advance of plans for extensive clearing along the right-of-way;

Whereas DVP has indicated plans to continue extensive tree removal and trimming through Fairfax County in the coming days;

Whereas, the removal or substantial trimming of trees along the W&OD Trail will compromise the services these trees provide in improved air and water quality, cooler temperatures, wildlife habitat, and pleasant aesthetics;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the Fairfax County Tree Commission:

Recommends that the DVP be asked to immediately pause tree removal and pruning until:

  • the Fairfax County Urban Forestry Division, working with DVP utility foresters, and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, complete a consensus evaluation of the existing conditions of the trees and their proximity to the power lines;
  • a course of action for immediate maintenance needs is developed by all concerned parties;

Requests that the approved method of pruning the White Oaks and other grand trees:

  • be in accordance with accepted industry standards for pruning large specimen trees as outlined by the Fairfax County Urban Forestry Division;
  • be carried out under the direction of a an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist supervised by the Fairfax County Urban Forestry Division or the Virginia Department of Forestry;

Requests that the County work with Dominion Virginia Power and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to develop an agreed plan for regular future maintenance of the DVP right-of-way along the W&OD Trail;

Suggests that the services provided by the trees --- which may be difficult to price, but are clearly of immense value --- be explicitly included in all future discussions and actions relating to transmission line maintenance;

Favors adopting a management policy of "the right tree in the right place" to reduce the need for future tree cutting along the right-of-way;

Urges the County and DVP to provide advance notice to civic associations and other stakeholder groups, and to post notices to alert individual users of the W&OD Trail prior to the start of future maintenance cycles.





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