Trees are a valuable asset in commercial, private and public landscapes. They add beauty, help the environment and give value to the property. However, these same trees can be a challenge for First Electric Cooperative.
Trees are one of the major causes of power outages in areas with overhead utility lines. When trees contact live wires they may become conductors of electricity and cause power outages or create dangerous situations for anyone coming in contact with them.
Providing reliable power is key.
Tim Felty, ROW Maintenance Supervisor
First Electric works hard maintaining its right-of-way near overhead lines to provide safe and reliable electrical service. Ideally, no trees would be planted within our right-of-way with overhead lines or within 10 feet of our underground transformers.
As a part of a regularly scheduled maintenance program, First Electric clears vegetation from its right-of-way. As a follow-up to this maintenance, the cooperative also returns to apply herbicides to portions of its overhead right-of-way that support tall-growing trees and shrubs. This herbicide application is performed by licensed and trained applicators with backpack sprayers. Additionally, our vegetation management personnel closely monitor this work.
The herbicide application process does not affect those members who have underground electric lines on their property. Also, no herbicides are applied to lawns, gardens, pastures, croplands or other maintained areas.
First Electric’s tree pruning practices conform with the procedures set forth by the American National Standards Institute. These standards require the use of directional and natural pruning methods, which are endorsed by the Tree Care Industry Association, the National Arbor Day Foundation and the International Society of Arboriculture.
Natural pruning is the practice of pruning branches back to a natural point of growth in the crown of the tree. Natural pruning is healthier than tree topping, which is the indiscriminate cutting back of tree branches to reduce the size of the tree crown. Although topping generally leaves the tree with a more balanced appearance, the International Society of Arboriculture refers to topping as "perhaps the most harmful pruning practice known." Topping stresses trees, makes them more vulnerable to insect and disease infections and leads to decay. By planting trees and shrubs away from power lines, you can help eliminate the need for pruning in the future.
Directional pruning removes only those branches that conflict with the power lines. Instead of cutting the limbs back to unnatural stubs, branches are pruned back to the trunk or parent branch where trees normally shed them. V-pruning and side pruning are the two main variations of directional pruning. Trees may look a bit different after directional pruning.
Dead tree remediation
A member who has a dead tree within the cooperative’s right-of-way may call 800-489-7405 to have one of the cooperative’s utility arborists assess whether it needs to be removed. If the utility arborist determines the dead tree is endangering First Electric lines or equipment, then a right-of-way crew will cut the tree at no charge to the member. The crew will cut the tree into firewood-size pieces for disposal by the member.
Be sure to consider the mature height of the tree when determining a suitable planting location. Native species often will grow better with fewer insect and disease problems than non-native trees. For areas near houses and overhead utilities, there are three tree height zones. They include:
- Low: The low height zone extends 15 feet on either side of overhead wires. Plant only large shrubs and small trees with mature heights of 20 feet or less within this area.
- Small: To accommodate the width of taller trees, the medium height zone begins at least 15 feet from all utility lines. Select trees that grow 25 feet or less for planting within this zone.
- Medium: The medium height zone begins at least 15 feet from all utility lines. Select trees that grow 40 feet or less for planting within this zone.
- Tall: The tall height zone begins at least 35 feet from buildings and at least 60 feet from utility lines. Trees that grow taller than 40 feet are suitable for planting in this area.
Before you plant, call Arkansas 811 at least 48 hours in advance (not counting weekends and holidays) to have your underground utilities marked at no charge.
Trees planted within First Electric’s easement (15 feet on either side of line) will have to be removed once trimming becomes necessary. All trees along fences, roadways and other unmaintained areas will be removed during regularly scheduled maintenance regardless of size or height.