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Plan needed to relocate utility wires
By Patrick Mehr/Woodcliffe Road
Fri Dec 18, 2009

Lexington - Regarding this week’s article, “
Last week’s storm takes out neighborhood’s power, trees” the Verizon workman at the scene is correct that a tree limb that fell down and caused a utility pole to snap “is nobody’s fault. It’s mother nature.”

But it is squarely NStar’s and Verizon’s fault that no plan exists to move utility wires underground across Lexington.

Placing wires underground in conduits is affordable when done right. In Concord, which has a municipal electric utility, not NStar (see, 40 percent of the network is already underground and the Concord utility transfers another 1.5 miles of wires underground each year. Other municipal utilities also routinely move wires underground to improve aesthetics and service reliability.

The cost to electricity consumers? Effectively zero. The Concord utility, which spends about $600,000 per mile to transfer wires underground, charges 30 percent to 40 percent less than NStar charges Lexingtonians for the same electricity.

NStar needs a long-term undergrounding plan to improve the aesthetics of the communities it serves, and to reduce power outages (with underground wires, falling tree limbs no longer cause outages.)

And if the Legislature finally passes Jay Kaufman’s Bill H3087 to allow new municipal utilities in Massachusetts, NStar will have a serious incentive to develop undergrounding plans, and to reduce its sky-high rates: if NStar doesn’t, a Lexington municipal utility eventually will.