The Waitsfield Select Board will discuss the issue of how Green Mountain Power (GMP) maintains its rights of way at an upcoming meeting on April 28.

The select board discussed the utility's plans at its regular meeting this week. Green Mountain Power posted legal notices notifying property owners in all of its service areas in Washington County of its plans to use herbicides to maintain the power lines. The legal notices included Valley towns.

The select board has concerns about Green Mountain Power's (GMP) main transmission line that runs near the town's municipal well and up the Northfield Ridge over to Northfield, as well as concerns about the herbicides leaching into the river no matter how carefully they are applied.

Many local people will remember when a group of Waitsfield citizens took the issue of using herbicides to maintain the rights of way to the state and effectively changed the utility's policy. The issue is back and it's time once again to talk about it.

But let's not malign GMP as we discuss it. The utility is charged with maintaining its lines in a manner that is environmentally and economically sound. Since it returned to the practice of using herbicides versus manual cutting to maintain the lines, the utility has always allowed people whose property abuts the power lines to opt out. It only takes a phone call.

And while GMP has no definite plans to use herbicides in The Valley this spring, according to spokesperson Dotty Schnure, GMP may be using herbicides in The Valley in the future, or may use them if a specific project comes along or the utility has to do specific line work for a customer.

So it is a timely discussion to have and it is an important discussion to have. It is critical to talk about it without being rushed and it is critical to have the time to bring all the stakeholders to the table.

Because, while individual property owners may opt out of having herbicides used on their property, that doesn't help people who rent or people who play or work close to power lines where herbicides may be used. The discussion really needs to be broader than the rights of property owners.