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Tree-Cutting Postponed

Columbia Gas will deal with hedges in December, trees later.

The removal of vegetation over Columbia Gas pipelines in Reston will not be as extensive as the Reston Association had initially feared — at least not this year.

The company is working with neighborhood clusters to deal with two long hedges between the Vintage Place and Hawthorne neighborhoods off the Reston Parkway, just north of Wiehle Avenue.

Virginia Boehringer, cluster condo outreach coordinator for the Reston Association, said the neighborhoods will soon be scheduling a meeting with a representative from Columbia gas to decide what to do about the hedges, which are over a large gas line. Boehringer said that, as she understood it, some time in December the hedges will likely be trimmed down to a height less than five feet, with a couple of five- to 10-foot-wide swaths cut down to the ground.

Columbia spokesman Brent Archer said the hedges could also be moved. He said the company prefers not to have vegetation over its pipelines. "We're looking at different options with them," said Archer. "It's not a closed decision yet." He confirmed that the work is expected to be done in December.

THE COMPANY had also been planning to do some more extensive work across the Reston Parkway, off Bright Pond Lane. However, that has been postponed until at least next year.

"We kind of got late in the season, and the ground starts to get mushy," said Archer, noting that the company prefers not to disturb the ground when it's soft. The work near Bright Pond would involve removing tree canopy and probably some whole trees, so the corridor does not become overgrown, said Archer. "At some point they stop looking like utility corridors, and people start digging." He said the work is costly, and Columbia's budget distribution will determine whether the job is undertaken next year.

Archer said the work is part of the company's effort to "rehabilitate" areas that have become overgrown along large pipelines. Particularly when such large-diameter, high-pressure pipelines are in highly developed areas, "we want to be able to inspect those on a much more regular basis," he said, adding that the company makes aerial inspections of these areas on about a monthly basis. "It's a more effective and efficient way to inspect those corridors and make sure they're not being encroached on," he said.

THE PURPOSE of such surveillance, said Archer, is to make sure digging and development do not get too close to the pipes. "It's a safety and operational integrity program more than anything else," he said.

Boehringer said the Reston Association had been concerned about what form the vegetation control might take because they had seen the work Columbia recently did in Herndon. There, she said, any part of a tree that was within a certain distance of the pipeline had been removed. "What you're left with is like acid rain fell on everything, and it looked awful," she said, adding that some trees had been removed while others were left nearly limbless.

"There was a big uproar in Herndon, and we benefited from that, I think," said Boehringer, adding that the company had so far cooperated readily with the community.

Archer said Columbia will be meeting with the Reston Association over the winter to discuss the work to be done in 2007.