Chicago, Illinois–The Utility Arborists Association may have a solution to a problem that has been plaguing utility companies for several years and affects millions of people who need power. The problem is hot power lines sagging onto overgrown trees. One such “sag” event in 2003 resulted in a blackout that affected 50 million people. Adequately managing tree growth near power lines became a critical task for many power companies, fueled by fines of up to $1 million by Congress against companies that do not properly trim their trees. The result: clear cutting of trees that has injured habitats and blighted green spaces.
The Right-of-Way Stewardship Council has been working on an accreditation process for utilities that keep environmental standard in mind when cleaning up the areas around power lines by plant management. Arborists are working with several companies to recommend low-growing species of trees that will block out and shade the higher-growing species, leading to a lower canopy that will allow nature to manage most of the problem itself.
The Utility Arborists Association
The method advocated by the Utility Arborists Association requires more up-front planning and work, but gives much better results both for the people living around the power lines and for the habitat. Ultimately, the UAA says that their methods will result in lower overall costs and less habitat destruction. Nationwide, about 8.6 million acres of land are currently used in transmission corridors. Good management of these corridors could result in habitat and migration paths for animals and birds and recreational green spaces for humans. Utility arborists can be used to monitor for invasive insects and disease as well as assist the cities or counties in choosing the right plant species for their transmission corridors.
Utility arborists have the expertise to assist utility companies that want to work with the environment and native species in creating power corridors. ROW hopes that by supporting these efforts, utility companies will see the ultimate value in planned planting rather than in simply clear-cutting these corridors. They also hope that legislatures will see the value of rewarding companies that work with professional arborists and experts to create habitat for wildlife and plant species rather than destroying these habitats with clear cutting.
Source: Midwest Energy News, “Trees vs. transmission: Utility arborist group seeks better approach,” Dan Haugen, August 19, 2013.