A TD has raised concerns about the difficulties faced by an electricity power line maintenance team during a recent storm due to poorly maintained forestry. Independent Sligo-Leitrim TD Marian Harkin addressed the issue in the Dáil, directing her comments towards Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan. Harkin highlighted that many people in her constituency were severely affected by Storm Isha last month, which resulted in power outages lasting several days. While power was restored in most parts of the country within a day or two, certain areas in Co. Leitrim experienced delays of up to six or seven days due to neglect of maintenance and poor planning in relation to forestry.
Harkin expressed her concerns about the proximity of trees to power lines, with some toppling over and bringing down the wires. She described the situation as “complete chaos” and claimed that maintenance crews had difficulty locating the lines in the forestry, making access almost impossible. Harkin also criticized forestry companies for their lack of care and diligence in maintaining their plantations, stating that the situation would only worsen if action was not taken. She proposed the removal of trees up to 30m from power lines and the completion of all associated works in the near future.
In response, Minister Ryan acknowledged the responsibility and legal obligation of forestry companies to protect the area alongside power lines to prevent the risk of falling trees. He urged Harkin to provide specific instances of forestry companies failing to meet these obligations, emphasizing that such negligence should not be tolerated. However, Minister Ryan also acknowledged the issue of the type of forestry planted. He highlighted that in certain areas of south Co. Leitrim, north Co. Leitrim, and Co. Roscommon, the forestry system developed was too intense, leading to communities feeling crowded out. He suggested the need for a shift towards a more nature-based system of continuous cover, rather than relying on non-diverse, single-crop, clear-fell species. Minister Ryan emphasized the importance of clearing for power lines while also considering a new forestry model.
Following her exchange with Minister Ryan, Harkin expressed her concerns about the costs associated with bringing crews from other jurisdictions, the time taken to locate and repair faults, and the disruption caused to families, schools, and health facilities. She argued that ordinary taxpayers should not be burdened with these costs and called for immediate and practical action to address the chaotic situation.
It is evident that the issue of poorly maintained forestry and its impact on electricity power line maintenance is a pressing concern. The delays in restoring power to affected areas highlight the need for improved planning and adherence to maintenance schedules. The negligence of forestry companies in maintaining their plantations not only poses risks to power lines but also contributes to the disruption of daily life for residents. The call for the removal of trees near power lines and the adoption of a more sustainable forestry model is a step in the right direction. It is crucial that the government and relevant authorities take swift action to address these issues and prevent further chaos and inconvenience for the public.