Utilities trim trees for safety

By Gus Bode

Utility companies and communities are working together to trim trees in order to avoid power outages during storms.

In 2005, Congress passed the Public Utility Tree Management Act, which requires utility companies to trim trees along power lines. The bill requires companies to notify property owners ahead of time or face fines as high as $1 million per day.

“I do think utilities have to take measures to protect their system,” said City Manager Allen Gill. “If you’ve seen what happens during an ice storm, that’s a concern, and then it becomes a major health and safety problem.”

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This bill does not apply to Egyptian Electric, but they do try to abide by it and have a certified arborist on staff, said Bryce Cramer, Egyptian Electric District Office and Member Services Manager. Egyptian Electric is a not-for-profit cooperative and is owned by members who use its services, making it self-regulated by the Illinois legislature, Cramer said.

Leigh Morris, spokesman for Ameren Illinois Utilities, said utility companies trim trees in four-year cycles. For areas with larger or faster growth, they do a cycle-buster, where they trim in an area every two years, Morris said.

“If trees are not properly trimmed, and a problem arises because of a down power line, it affects an entire area, and that is a reliability issue,” he said.

Morris said Ameren’s Vegetation Management Department employs only arborists certified by the National Society of Arboriculture and are recognized as a “Tree Line USA” utility company by the Arbor Day foundation.

Morris said utility companies are also conscientious of a tree’s health. If a tree gets cut in a way that weakens it, Morris said that causes more problems later.

When Ameren trims a tree, Morris said they notify the property line’s resident and municipal government officials and take out a legal notice in the paper.

Morris said Ameren likes to stress prevention to those residents and business owners who do not like having trees trimmed on their property, and this comes before the tree is even in the ground.

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“People need to know how to plant the right tree in the right place,” Morris said. “A tree that will mature to 50 to 60 feet should not be planted near the power lines.”

Morris said Ameren offers literature on tree maturity called “Planting Trees,” which can be found on its Web site.

Before planting a new tree, Morris said a planter should call 811, which directs them to JULIE, a one-call diggers hotline who calls all utilities. The utility companies are then required to come and mark their lines in two business days.

Jennifer Butcher can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected]

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