Trees are one of the biggest drivers of power outages in the United States, ranking in the top four with squirrels and other wildlife, weather and overhead equipment issues. Utilities across the country have strict programs in place to ensure power lines remain free and clear of any hazardous vegetation to maintain safe, reliable power. “Our tree trimming program is imperative to our overall operation and requires a balance between necessity and customer expectations,” stated Kelly A. Simonsen, Marketing and Communications Manager for Easton Utilities.
Failure to maintain vegetation can lead to unnecessary power outages, unsafe conditions for crews to make repairs and significant costs to restore power, impacting both the utility and the customer. While the aesthetics factor is important and the visual impact of excessive pruning can sometimes be unsightly, there is a minimum clearance required and a need to reduce the frequency of pruning. “It is in everyone’s best interests to work together to understand the benefits of tree trimming and the need for constant vigilance to avoid service interruptions,” added Simonsen.
For over 26 years Mark Cecil, who is certified to work within the high-voltage zone, conducted the vegetation management for Easton Utilities. He retired on June 28 and officially handed off his responsibilities to Tommy Mullikin. Mark worked tirelessly to proactively control overgrown or hazardous trees, shrubs and brush around distribution and transmission lines within the 54 square mile service territory. This included anything from manual tree removal or pruning, brush clearing, saw cutting and occasionally applying herbicide. “I’ve always tried to work with requests from the various community members who are passionate about trees while making sure our power lines are not compromised,” said Cecil. “We also work to educate local arborists, landscape professionals and other contractors to on the importance of power line clearance.”
Trees and vegetation grow faster and require more attention when moisture levels are high. Following a milder winter and a wet spring, the increased growth rates this year have impacted the tree trimming crew’s maintenance schedule. In order to stay on track, Easton Utilities is currently reviewing proposals from various contractors to assist with the vegetation management. “We aim to reach 25% of our service territory each year so that every four years we have covered 100%, but this year has been more challenging with the historical rainfall we’ve encountered,” added Cecil.
Easton Utilities tracks the causes of all power outages and including tree related damage. On an annual basis, these outage statistics are analyzed to evaluate the effectiveness of our vegetation management program and changes are made as necessary. It is important to remind customers to be mindful when planting trees to ensure they are considering the right trees in the right places.