More than 700 trees will be cut down to take way for new power lines in Kalamazoo.
City commissioners approved the plan Monday. Consumers Energy asked for the easement to run power lines near the Kalamazoo River for a $600 million expansion of Graphic Packaging. But a resident who's suing the company says the decision is a mistake. Brandi Crawford-Johnson says the paper company may be responsible for her health problems.
"One mature tree provides oxygen for four people and trees help protect the health and climate of city residents. Taking away those trees near a neighborhood that has an asthma hospitalization rate five times higher than anywhere in the region is cruel."
But Graphic Packaging says the project will create jobs and expand the city's tax base. The new lines will also feed power to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Consumers Energy says it gives saplings to local schools, and will contribute 2,500 trees for planting at the Fulton State Game Area as part of its clean energy plan.
Kalamazoo City Commissioners are expected to vote tonight on an easement proposal from Consumers Energy. If granted, the utility would have the city’s permission to cut down hundreds of trees near the Kalamazoo River as it runs new power lines to Graphic Packaging International.
The paper company is in the midst of a major expansion of its plant. Consumers says the new lines are necessary to meet GPI’s electrical needs.
Kalamazoo’s Tree Committee approved the removal in September, but a majority of members expressed misgivings. They agreed the utility’s planned compensation for the trees – about $12 apiece – did not reflect the woods' true environmental and aesthetic value. That payment is strictly for the lumber, which Consumers said would fetch little on the market.
The head of the Tree Committee, Anthony Ladd, suggested the city revise its tree-removal policy to consider more than the price of the wood in setting compensation rates.
“We owe it to the city and everyone around us to figure that out shortly,” he said.