Utility Asks To Cut Hundreds Of Trees Near The Kalamazoo River

Sep 11, 2020

A view of the Kalamazoo River, looking south from East Mosel Avenue. Consumers Energy wants to run two new power lines across the water from its substation on the east side of Riverview Drive. One would cross the water near the tower on the left. The other would cross the river further south. The utility is asking to cut down about 700 trees on the west side of the river, to make way for the lines.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

The City of Kalamazoo is considering a proposal from Consumers Energy to clear about 700 trees on the city's North Side near the Kalamazoo River. While the city’s Tree Committee approved the plan last week, some members say it reflects an outmoded view of trees' value to Kalamazoo.

This story has been updated with a map.

Consumers says it needs to cut down the trees so it can run new power lines to Graphic Packaging as the paper mill expands its plant. The utility’s Sam Chansler told the Committee last week that the trees Consumers is asking to remove are on the west side of the river, near East Mosel Avenue and Riverview Drive.

Consumers will pay the city about $8400, or roughly $12 a tree in compensation, according to records shared in the meeting.

A map showing the proposed placement of the new power lines, in red.
Credit Consumers Energy

Chansler says that’s a fair price for the timber. “It’s mostly low-value species, cottonwood, box elder, dead ash, some soft maple, and that’s about it,” he told the board.

But Assistant City Engineer Anthony Ladd, the Tree Committee’s interim leader, said the trees also have environmental and aesthetic value to Kalamazoo. Ladd said the city’s valuation process needs to reflect that in the future.

“We owe it to the city and everyone around us to figure that out shortly,” he said.

Environmental Concerns Committee liaison Phil Dietrich said it might once have made sense to value trees strictly for the wood. Now, he said, “I’m finding that way of valuing tree cover obsolete.”

The City Commission will have the final say on the easement, but it’s not clear when the proposal will reach it. Chansler told the Tree Committee the clearing needs to start before the ground gets soggy in November to avoid throwing off Graphic Packaging’s timeline.