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Trees, Rights of Way and Reliability
Aerial Tree Pruning
Blue Ridge Energy is beginning to utilize more aerial tree pruning, a safe and environmentally friendly vegetation management practice approved by the ANSI (see video). With this method, helicopter pilots carefully conduct pruning along rights of ways. Trained employee “spotters” located on ground level of the right of way are in constant communication with the pilot. Used by utilities across the nation, this process is more cost effective, faster and less intrusive to homeowner’s property and the environment than traditional methods. As with our traditional right of way trimming method, property owners are notified in advance of pruning and debris is removed from maintained areas while in non-maintained areas, debris is chipped or bush hogged to the ground.
What is a Right-of-Way?
A right-of-way is the area directly around Blue Ridge Energy’s power lines. It can range from 30 feet (15 feet on each side of the power line) for our distribution power lines to as much as a 250-foot corridor for our large transmission lines.
Why Trim RIghts-of-Way?
Blue Ridge Energy is one of the top performers in the nation when it comes to keeping the lights on with a 99.98 percent reliability rating. An important aspect of this rating involves managing the tree and large shrub growths within our power line right-of-ways. It is imperative that these power line “avenues” remain clear. Not only does a clean right-of-way help the power line corridors remain clear, it also helps keep the power on when high winds and snow comes to our areas because trees and limbs are not falling across the lines causing outages. Clear rights-of-way are also for the safety of our crews and helps them get the power back on faster should an outage occur.
How Often Do You Need to Trim My Right-of-Way?
Our power lines are divided into circuits based upon location and supplying substation. We have a plan to clear each circuit every six years. The year after clearing a right-of-way, we selectively treat the woody species in unmaintained areas with herbicide.
We also perform a “mid-cycle trim,” riding over rights-of-way that were cleared three years earlier, cutting trees close to lines and removing dead trees. Dead trees that are in danger of falling on the lines are cut year round on any circuit to ensure safety and reliability.
Removing Trees vs. Topping
Topping trees under a line is only a temporary solution. Topping or “rounding over” a tree is not a professionally recognized method of pruning trees. Topping promotes starvation, shock, stress, insects, disease, weak branch attachments and rot resulting in an undesirable or dead tree. Blue Ridge Energy removes trees in our rights-of-way when at all possible for the all the reasons mentioned above.
Tree Voucher Program
Blue Ridge Energy offers a voucher program for replacement of trees directly in our rights-of-way. Blue Ridge will offer a voucher to a local nursery to replace a large tree under our power lines with a low-growing species. We may also offer a voucher for a large tree if that tree is planted away from the line well outside of the right-of-way.
Blue Ridge Energy will chip brush within 15 feet of any areas maintained by the property owner.
What is a Maintained Area?
A maintained area is any area regularly mowed such as your yard. It must be accessible with a chipper. “Natural Areas” are not considered maintained.
Blue Ridge Energy will cut down dead trees that endanger our lines even if they are outside of our cleared right-of-way. We do not, however, remove or cut these trees into smaller lengths or chip debris.
Why Use Herbicide?
The use of herbicide is cost effective and less invasive than mechanical trimming. It is selectively applied to tall woody species leaving behind weeds and grasses that will not interfere with lines. This selective clearing is also more useful to wildlife.
The chemicals used leave no soil residual (meaning it doesn’t hinder the soil nor stay active in the soil) and only affects the plant it is applied to by entering through the leaves. The caution label applied to the chemicals we use indicates lower toxicity than most household cleaners (the same level as Pledge®) and is approved for use up to any water’s edge (though we chose to leave a buffer zone.) It also does not require a license to purchase which means it is safe for anyone to use.
What About Underground Power Lines?