Natural Enemies – Trees and Power Lines

Posted: April 14, 2020 at 3:45 pm

Ohop Mutual trims and removes trees to ensure reliable electric service as well as maintain a safe environment for our members and employees.

Tree related power outages are the single most frequent reason for interruptions to service. Wind, snow and ice damage the trees causing branches and limbs – and sometimes entire trees – to tear down energized lines and poles. These inconvenient outages deprive our members of necessary amenities such as heat, lights, telephone and computer systems – which have become an integral part of many people’s lives.

Powerline downed by treesTrees that touch power lines are a safety issue. Not only do they put increased stress on live wires causing branches to burn and fall to the ground – which can cause fires, they also drain electricity from our electrical system – which can result in a voltage loss.

Federal and State governments have instituted more aggressive regulations regarding the removal and/or trimming of trees near power lines – as the loss of power can result in economic hardship.

Ohop Mutual must adhere to all applicable right-of-way agreements, federal, state and local laws and ordinances, as well as all applicable safety codes in order to deliver safe and reliable electric service to our members. This can only be accomplished by maintaining a safe distance between your trees and our wires. State regulation requires a ten (10) foot distance on all sides of the power line to maintain worker safety.

Our tree trimming standards are based on several criteria including safety regulations, how much trees and conductors sway in high winds under adverse weather conditions, voltage, sagging of conductors at elevated temperatures, tree growth rates, tree location and tree type.

These standards are used to determine whether a tree requires directional trimming or whether the trees should be removed. Ohop Mutual will no longer top trees as this practice has too many negatives associated with it – including faster growth as the tree tries to re-establish, the increased expense of trimming every two years, the unsightly look of the tree, and increased danger as topped trees tend to rot on the inside.

In the past, we have tried to accommodate our members who have requested that only the minimum trimming be completed on their trees; unfortunately, due to increased power rates, federal conservation expenditure requirements, labor costs, and governmental regulations, we can no longer accommodate these requests.

Our Vegetation Management requires that all trees be trimmed ten (10) feet from the power lines per WAC 296-24-960 and RCW 64.12.035, danger trees located in the right of way cut down, topped trees under the power lines removed and tree stumps sprayed with Garlon.

I know that many of our customers love their trees and I fully empathize with that – because I also appreciate the beauty of trees and the time it takes to grow them; however, the fact remains, trees and power lines just don’t mix.

We want to thank all of those members who have taken the extra step to keep the right of way clear of trees and/or have allowed us to remove the existing trees. Even though tree removal is more expensive than trimming trees – not having to come back and trim again every few years saves the Cooperative money. The payback can be seen in just one trimming cycle.

Fewer trees also reduce the Cooperative’s exposure to tree-related outages as well as saves money – which in the end – keeps our rates low.

We will continue to notify our members by letter when our tree crew will be in their neighborhood. If you should have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office.