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The Issue: As summer began giving way to fall, idyllic life in the Palisades was shattered by a dose of cold, cruel reality from D.C. electricity provider Pepco. To improve electrical reliability, Pepco wanted to cut down about 400 trees in the neighborhood as well as (gasp!) 16 others along a few blocks of MacArthur Boulevard.
Now Hold On a Just Minute Here: When Pepco goons with chainsaws showed up and began chopping down the 400 trees, the Palisades Citizens Association (PCA) was pissed. “Pepco was springing it on the neighborhood without any prior consultation,” Spence Spencer, the association president, said. He and his neighbors were concerned that losing the trees on MacArthur would “de-nude whole blocks” of a street that is one of the few in D.C. with a tree canopy. He says a letter of concern to Pepco went unanswered. It was only after Mayor Adrian Fenty made a visit to the Palisades in October that Pepco began to listen. According to Spencer, Fenty “basically” said: “Look, Pepco, you guys have gotta come up with a more tree-friendly approach.” Fenty imposed a moratorium on tree work until a plan was approved by the PCA.
It’s All Good: According to Pepco, the Palisades tree canopy was responsible for over 100 hours of lost power in the neighborhood in 2007 and 2008. Pepco media representative Clay Anderson said that the District asked Pepco to improve reliability, and that Pepco has been paying attention to the community all along. “We’re pretty much okay with the folks out there now,” he says of the beef. The company submitted two plans to the PCA last week—one that had little tree pruning on MacArthur, and one that had none.
What’s Next: It’s up to Palisades residents to decide. “We’re evaluating what on the face looks like a positive proposal, even though it took Fenty to get them to pay attention to community,” says Spencer. For the moment, Palisades folks are assuaged, according to Spencer, but “there needs to be a long-term dialogue about this. They’ve got a two-year cutting cycle on trees,” he says, “so best case, all that we’ve done is forstalled what might be another round of mass cutting of trees in the Palisades two years from now.”
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery.