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Madison Heights street tree planting program aims to reduce power outages

Madison Heights street tree planting program aims to reduce power outages
Madison Heights street tree planting program aims to reduce power outages 02:51
Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. CBS DETROIT) - Throughout restoring power, DTE Energy has touted its tree-trimming efforts. However, they're taking it a step further in Madison Heights by preventing trees from ever reaching power lines. 

Whenever Madison Heights has to replace the roads, they also have to replace the sewer lines, and that causes damage to a tree's roots, and eventually, the tree will come down.

In the past, homeowners didn't have a lot of options to replace it. Nowadays, it's a whole different story. 

Driving through Madison Heights, you can see why it's on the 'Tree Cities USA' list.

"Not only is it a beautification process, but trees are vital to suburban areas because they help with air noise, light pollution, they also help with stormwater runoff, and our city in this region has had a lot of issues with storm drains and with flooding," Lauren Nulph, a homeowner, and Madison Heights resident said.

When Nulph moved into the neighborhood, she noticed a mound outside her house where a tree once stood.

That's no longer the case thanks to a program where the city will replace trees on the public right of way, the area between the sidewalk and curb, and homeowners don't have to pay a cent. 

"One day, I got an email, and they were like, 'you're going to have a tree by, you know, the end of August,' and I was like, 'yay.' And so August came, and like, the weeks went by, and there was no tree. And then, like, on the second to last day of August, I came home from work, and the tree was there. So it was exciting," Nulph said.

Once homeowners fill out an online form, they get to plant a tree from a specific list the city's Forestry Division has approved. 

"One of the things that happens with tree disease is if all the trees are the same and one tree has something, then it will spread to the other. So we want to make sure that there's a diversity of trees," Roslyn Grafstein, Mayor of Madison Heights, said. 

And if the tree is near power lines, they must choose a species that won't touch the lines when it matures.

"We have a lot of power outages, and the main cause of that is because the tree branches fall on the wires. Just the other day, I was out shoveling during the storm, and I heard something I didn't know what it was, and then boom, a tree branch fell–it didn't fall on anything, but very easily it would have taken out a line," Grafstein said.

The program is quite popular. There's a waitlist that's about two to three years long.

"I myself lost my tree over ten years ago when we finally broke down and applied last year. I know I don't get any special treatment, and I'll be waiting a couple of years. But you know, it's a great program," Grafstein told CBS News Detroit. 

Grafstein adds the program is funded through grants and sponsorships. 

For more information on the program, visit the city's Forestry Division page.

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