Having great service from your co-op is a delicate balancing act.
That balancing act is between a safe and reliable power grid and the desires of property owners when it comes to trees and other vegetation.
Fortunately, most Walton EMC customer-owners are cooperative when contract trimming crews come around to maintain power line rights-of-way that cross their property (about once every four years depending on where you’re located).
But you’re not only helping yourself when you allow right-of-way crews to do their job; you’re also helping your neighbors. Your untrimmed trees can affect their electric service. For example, an oak tree can grow 8 feet in just one year if rain is abundant.
Almost always, it’s better to completely remove a threatening tree rather than severely trimming the top. When a tree is “topped,” it puts all its energy into making leaves. The other parts of the tree suffer, opening the door to things like diseases, beetles and borers.
Your co-op has a 15-foot easement on each side of our power lines. It’s apparent that you wouldn’t want to plant trees in a power line easement. What’s not apparent to many homeowners is that it’s not a good idea to plant expensive shrubs or ornamentals there, either.
That’s because Walton EMC’s heavy trucks may need to travel up and down our easement if lines are down or poles are broken during a storm. Your co-op can’t replace shrubs or other vegetation that’s planted in our easement damaged during the course of maintenance or repair.
Walton EMC’s power line right-of-way is not necessarily the same as the road right-of-way. Although Walton EMC tries to use the same right-of-way as the highway, it’s not always possible.
Walton EMC’s overhead lines aren’t the only things affected by errant planting. We also need a clear space around underground transformers, pole bottoms and meters.
For instance, if crews have to repair underground wiring, the first thing line technicians do is open our big green boxes out at the street. If a homeowner plants shrubs too close, they’ll be cut.
This doesn’t happen because we’re mean. Inside that green box, or transformer, our line technicians deal with several thousand volts of electricity right at their fingertips.
Poles are routinely inspected and treated for rot prevention at ground level. If plants are in the way, they’ll also be removed.
Keeping Walton EMC’s rights-of-way clear and accessible occurs in three stages:
Cooperating with Walton EMC in maintaining clear power line rights of way provides these advantages:
Answers to your questions on tree trimming and planting around power lines
Keeping plant growth a reasonable distance from our lines keeps your electric service reliable. Limbs brushing against our lines can cause blinks and temporary outages. A blink can cause havoc with your computer system and possibly cause the loss of valuable and expensive data.
If limbs that overhang our lines are properly managed, you’re also less likely to have a prolonged outage when storms come to call. The major cause of a storm related outage is when ice or wind breaks limbs that bring our lines crashing down.
But the most important reason to keep trees trimmed away from power lines is safety. No one wants a tree close enough to a power line that would allow a playful child to climb up and be in danger.
You’re likely to experience power quality problems and longer than necessary storm-related outages. It takes three to four times longer to restore your power if our crews have to work around untrimmed or topped trees. Also, trees or limbs that fall on your property can affect your neighbors’ electric service. And you could be held liable if a child in a tree on your property contacts a power line.
Walton EMC follows a four-year plan. That is, we try to reach every line on our system within four years; then we start again. Walton EMC maintains about 7,000 miles of lines. If you stretched them end to end, they’d reach to Seattle and back!
By law, Walton EMC has right-of-way 15 feet either side of our line. This right-of-way also gives us a path to maintain or repair the co-op’s lines. If you think about it, 15 feet is not much room to maneuver a 60-foot bucket truck or other large equipment if we have to do major line repair.
We cooperate with landowners and homeowners in determining just how much trimming is necessary in the co-op’s right-of-way. If our line is there, your co-op has a legal right to trim it.
If our line runs along a road or highway, the road right-of-way and power line right-of-way probably cover different areas.
If a tree threatens your service wire, we’ll be glad to disconnect it while tree surgeons remove the tree.
They’re immediately chipped and later used as recycled mulch. Some of our crews have the ability to pick up and haul away the debris as it is cut. Other crews are separated into two teams: the first team cuts and the second team follows within a day or two to handle the cleanup.
If debris remains in your yard longer than three business days, please call Walton EMC at (770) 267-2505 to report this.
Walton EMC contracts with experienced companies to do its right-of-way maintenance. Hiring contract crews saves money; that keeps rates down. The right-of-way contract is re-bid every year, making sure we get the most competitive pricing.
These contract crews are highly skilled, properly equipped and under the supervision of specialized Walton EMC employees whose sole responsibility is the maintenance of the co-op’s right-of-way.
Sorry, but Walton EMC doesn’t offer a tree trimming service for the public. Liability concerns prevent us from trimming trees not on the power line right-of-way or not interfering with the electrical distribution system.
See the diagram here for suggestions. Keep in mind, though, any planting directly under power lines can hamper the movement of employees and equipment working to restore your power after an outage.
Just as our overhead lines need clearance, so do our underground facilities. Keep shrubs at least ten feet from the sides and backs of our underground transformers; don’t plant anything directly in front. It hampers our crews making outage repairs if they have to first trim shrubs to gain access to our equipment. It also wastes your money to plant nice shrubs just to have them cut down when we’re restoring your power.
Call (770) 267.2505 to speak to a Customer Care Representative from Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.