Tree Trimming: Who’s Responsible?
Trees beautify our yards, provide us with shade, and naturally attract climbing children. However, when trees grow to interfere with power lines, they become safety hazards, and are among the most common causes for utility outages.
Dawson PPD employs two, full-time employees to help keep trees and large shrubs away from power lines. The Tree Crew may also trim or even remove trees as a result of weather-related damage. Harsh weather conditions like wind, lightning, snow or ice can cause irreparable damage to trees, threatening electrical reliability or safety. Although Dawson PPD does trim trees, the responsibility for maintaining these landscape features does not automatically go to the utility.
Trees growing in utility right of ways are maintained by the electric utility. When hiring someone to prune in those cases, be aware that most tree-care workers are not qualified to work around energized power lines. According to the Utility Arborist Association (UAA), utility line clearance professionals that meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) qualifications are the only ones legally permitted to work within ten feet of lines, or work on a tree that has branches that are within ten feet of a power line.
How trees are trimmed
Trees are cut at the growth points for tree health, and in many cases, it’s impossible to maintain the tree’s original shape. Some trees require directional pruning to keep them from growing back into lines. Trees directly underneath power lines may appear to be in a ‘V’ or ‘U’ shape with lines passing through the opening in the middle, while trees growing alongside a power line may appear to be in a ‘L’ shape, or one side may be completely missing due to side pruning. The shape of the tree will be different, but the health and safety of the tree stay intact, and safety and reliability related to the power lines ensured. Dawson PPD does not trim branches that overhang a structure.
Why a tree is removed
Pruning a tree will solve the problem a lot of the time, but in some cases, the tree must be removed. Those include tall or fast growing species that are directly under power lines, large previously topped trees under the power lines, saplings with potential to grow in or around the lines, and hazardous trees that may be leaning, in decline, cracked, or split.
Plant the right tree in the right place
Property owners may choose to replace a problem tree with a new one. There are many varieties of shorter-growing trees that provide beauty, shade and screening, and will never grow to interfere with power lines. Your local tree nursery can help with selection of trees and shrubs appropriate for landscaping around power lines and electrical equipment.
For more information, visit SafeElectricity.org.