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Vegetation Management

Tree contact with power lines is the single leading cause of power outages on our system.

We do everything we can to strike a healthy balance between our appreciation for trees and our obligation to provide safe, reliable electric service. That’s why we have two comprehensive vegetation management programs that address our tree trimming practices along distribution lines and transmission rights-of-way.

Tree Trimming Along Our Distribution lines

Through our regularly scheduled tree maintenance program, we redirect tree growth away from power lines so we can limit any electric system damage that could be caused by Mother Nature. If a tree grows too fast, or if its proximity to power lines is a threat to our electric system, our expert contractors prune the growth away from our equipment to the extent that minimum distances are created as shown below.

In some cases, we may need to prune intruding branches along the rights-of-way adjoining your property. In other instances, we may need to remove non-compatible trees to encourage establishment of lower-growing trees near power lines.

Tree Trimming Along Our Transmission Lines

As a result of more stringent regulatory standards, we began implementing a comprehensive vegetation management plan that requires the removal of all tall-growing species within the entire width of the Right-of-Way (ROW) — including both the wire zone and border zone.

What is a Right-of-Way (ROW)?

Right-of-Way (ROW) — A ROW is the land described in an easement, which is a permanent, legal land right to use the land or property of another owner for a special purpose. Easements grant O&R the right to build, operate and maintain power lines and to clear vegetation around them.

Where is the ROW around a transmission line

A transmission line ROW typically includes land directly beneath the wires (wire zone) and land between the wire zone and the edge of the ROW (border zone).

The ROW must be clear of woody vegetation and structures that could interfere with the safe and reliable operation of the power line. While many property owners plant in the easement area or place recreational or storage structures there, anything in the ROW is subject to removal.

Wire zone — The area of the ROW directly underneath the transmission lines and extending 10 feet beyond the conductors on each side of the tower or pole.
Border zone — The remaining area in the ROW that is outside the wire zone. The widths of the border zones are the distances between the edges of the wire zone and the edges of the ROW.
Priority zone — The space around each wire. For a 138 kV transmission line, the space extends out from the wire a distance of 14 feet — less for lower voltage lines. As wires sag between towers, the priority zone will also sag around them and be lower to the ground between towers.

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s a tall tree on my property that has the potential to fall and come in contact with the transmission line. Does PCL&P have the right to cut that tree down?

In situations where an incompatible tree is located outside of the ROW, we’ll obtain the property owner’s consent before cutting the tree down.

What is your cleanup policy after a tree crew has completed its work?

Generally, cleanup is conducted within one week after work is completed. Depending on weather conditions and the terrain along the transmission lines, it may be more productive to clear a lengthy section of transmission lines first, and then return for cleanup at a later date. In the event the debris cannot be safely removed through a transmission line ROW, we’ll ask permission to go through private property.

What do you do with tree stumps left along the ROW?

To prevent soil erosion, we cut the stumps as close to the ground as possible and leave them in place. In some instances, we may use a spot application of a growth inhibitor that prevents the tree from regenerating. We grind tree stumps at your request.

What can I plant near power lines?

With your participation, transmission line corridors can be cultivated with native grasses that provide food value to birds and wildlife and are more compatible with the operation of a high voltage transmission line. Native grasses also have deep root systems which make them more likely to recover easily from the effects of ROW maintenance and repair work. While all vegetation in the easement is subject to removal, we can provide you with a list of species of grasses and flowers that are less likely to interfere with access for emergency or maintenance crews.

Keep in mind that small immature trees planted today can grow into problem trees in the future. Planting trees outside the ROW at an adequate distance from power lines allows the canopy and root system to develop more fully. For a list of compatible tree and shrubbery species, see our Landscaping for Efficiency page on compatible species.

And remember, before you start any landscaping project, make sure that you call 811 prior to digging to make sure
there are no buried pipes or wires.

More information

  • To learn more about proper planting of trees and shrubs, download our Tree Maintenance Guide.
  • For tips to help you save energy and money while improving your property’s beauty and enhancing its value, visit our online Tree Landscaping Guide.
  • For more information about our vegetation maintenance program, contact Mark Beamish, Manager of Vegetation Management, toll-free at 1-866-458-3079.