Thursday, May 9, 2013

Speaking for the Trees

"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."  -Dr. Seuss

In the past week, we have been talking with scientists who specialize in PCBs. I have learned a lot. We were given an approximate timetable for when we can expect the dredging barge to park in front of our house on our side of the river, and the good news is that it will only take up residence there for days to a couple weeks since it's a small hot spot. The other side of the river is another matter entirely, for that's where the major hot spots are. 

My son and I took a short drive to see the dredging barge lit up at night. It looks like a traffic intersection in a town, with the green and red lights and the bright lights that resemble streetlights and headlights. We didn't hear any noise during the 10 minutes we were parked there, but the excavator didn't go down into the water during that time, either. This has been a week of gathering information and coming to terms with what is coming.

The EPA contact with whom I spoke this week confirmed my suspicion that the equipment on the river just around the bend is for tree trimming and removal. The next afternoon, I arrived home from work, and it could be seen from our house. It looked like it was in the vicinity of my favorite cottonwood tree, "Patrick" (named by my last year's kindergarten class). The next afternoon when I got home from work, it had moved a little closer. My husband had been watching the crane ascend to skyscraper heights all afternoon to take down parts of trees, and I wondered if they had already gotten to Patrick Cottonwood. I drove to the other side of the river and found an orange barrier around Patrick. 

The view through Patrick's branches: Here today, gone tomorrow?

 The tree that had lived next to him for decades (that I thought of as Patrick's brother) was gone. 

Only a stump remained. 

I'd noticed last week that this tree had been marked with bright orange paint, like multitudes of other trees lining the shore. Now I know the fate of the marked trees. (I'd gathered as much from the somewhat apologetic tone I detected in the project rep's voice when I wondered aloud about what would happen to the marked trees.) 

From the river, Patrick (the large tree) looks like a prisoner of war. 

Fortunately, he does not have an orange mark on him, but he certainly will have some limbs amputated tomorrow while I'm at work. And that is really sad. I can't stop it, but I can bear witness and write about it. 

The stump that was Patrick's "brother"

Remains of Patrick's "brother"

My husband and I went on the river this evening to photograph the orange-marked trees for perhaps the last time. It occurred to us that, aside from the people involved in the Hudson River PCB dredging project, we are probably the only others who realize at this point how many trees will be removed and how drastically different the shoreline is going to look. You can't see the orange dots from the road. They can only be seen when you're on the river up close and moving slowly.

The trees need to be removed to make room for the dredging barges. As I paddled down to Patrick Cottonwood this evening and noticed all the marked trees, I also noticed birds perched in them, singing. Certainly there are nests in many of the trees. Last summer, egrets roosted in the trees along that shore. It is very sad to think of all the wildlife that will be displaced when the trees are removed. There is so much more to this project than excavating PCBs. Although that is the main headline, the quieter story is that of the trees. Many, many trees.

I can't help but liken it to a war. The trees are on the front line giving their lives. They don't have any choice or say in the matter. It had better be worth it in the long run.

Patrick Cottonwood

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