After several years of contention, the International Transmission Co. and Macomb County have reached a deal over access to trees growing along a portion of the Macomb Orchard Trail.
About three years ago, ITC angered Macomb officials and residents of several Macomb County communities when it began clear-cutting trees that interfered with power lines along a portion of the corridor it owns, which runs adjacent with the Macomb Orchard Trail.
Residents complained the power company had gone beyond its scope and cut down trees in neighborhoods that had stood for years.
ITC officials had said they needed to keep power lines free from interference, and the company had threatened to initiate eminent domain proceedings in court. Eminent domain is a legal procedure in which a public utility company can claim land for the overall public good.
After several years of negotiations, a deal between the power company, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, Macomb County Orchard Trail Commission and County Executive Mark Hackel was reached.
“We called a special Board of Commissioners meeting to deal specifically with this issue,” Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chair Kathy D. Vosburg said. “Once a decision was reached among members of the board, we moved expediently and responsibly to make sure all electrical power needs would be met.”
The agreement states ITC will pay the county $500,000 for a vegetation easement along a portion of the Macomb Orchard Trail. The power company will also repair any damage to the trail caused in the process of trimming around power lines.
Macomb County has agreed to replace vegetation along portions of the trail in Shelby and Washington townships, where the power company will be trimming, cutting and removing trees.
Macomb County Commissioner Don Brown, who represents Washington
Township, said the settlement allows for reforestation of the trail with compatible vegetation, ensures proper compensation for the easement and allows the power company access to Macomb County’s Jewell-Spokane electrical transmission path.
"This means ITC’s Jewell-Spokane 230,000-volt transmission line can return to service soon," said Joe Kirik, ITC senior capital communications specialist. "This line is critical to grid reliability in Macomb and Oakland counties, particularly during times of peak summer demand."
“We negotiated in such a way that homeowners and the county would be treated with the respect and courtesy we deserve,” said Brown. “We hope this sends a message to anyone doing business in Macomb County that our residents’ rights cannot be disregarded, and that we value and protect county assets such as the Macomb Orchard Trail.”
The Macomb Orchard Trail is a 24-mile hike and bike path that starts at 24 Mile Road and Dequindre Road in Shelby Township and travels northeast to Richmond. The aim of the path is to connect it with 180 miles of existing or newly built trails in southeast Michigan. The mission is to form a cohesive, consecutive path for recreational use.