Tisbury selectmen protest NSTAR’s use of herbicides

Herbacide spraying under power lines is under protest. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Tisbury selectmen agreed last week to send a letter to NSTAR opposing the utility’s herbicide spraying program to control the growth of vegetation under power lines on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Following public meetings held by the Tisbury Board of Health on December 17, 2013, and the Tisbury Board of Selectmen on January 28, 2014, the Selectmen concluded that the proposed herbicide program will threaten the public health and safety of the residents of Tisbury,” the letter drafted by town administrator Jay Grande said.

The selectmen submitted the letter, along with a memorandum from the town’s board of Health (BOH) commenting on NSTAR’s proposed 2014 yearly operational plan and right-of-way management plan, which is under review by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR).

The BOH memo summarized the board’s public meeting with three NSTAR representatives on December 17, 2013. At the meeting, NSTAR arborist Bill Hayes explained that the utility’s Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) model is a five-year plan that uses mechanical control, through cutting and mowing, and natural control, followed one to two years later with selected use of environmentally-sensitive herbicides to eliminate tall-growing invasive vegetation. Mr. Hayes said the DAR validated NSTAR’s IVM program as the best solution.

Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously on January 28 to recommend banning NSTAR’s use of the chemical triclopyr and application of any other chemicals from within one-half mile of any water body or well recharge area in the town, given the Island’s porous soils and high water table. The BOH memo also recommended that NSTAR maintain its rights-of-way by mechanical and agricultural means only.