Utility Forestry in Tallahassee
Therefore the City of Tallahassee's Electric Utility Forester is responsible to administer a community based customer friendly program to manage our "urban forests" growing in the vicinity of City power lines.
The Utility Forester is also responsible for all electric line clearance tree trimming, mowing along transmission line rights of way, tree planting, and other utility forestry related activities. Furthermore it is his responsibility to ensure that the program achieves its electric service reliability objective in an economic and customer friendly manner that minimizes the aesthetic impact upon the community's canopy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Utility Forestry
- What exactly is "Utility Forestry?"
Utility Forestry is a combination of customer service and vegetation management as it relates to overhead power lines. This means tree trimming in a responsible manner to minimize power outages. The performance of this maintenance tree trimming in a pre-planned and proactive manner will help to prevent tree related outages for a reasonable period of time. Over the Past three and a half years the City has performed two complete trimming cycles of the Electric Utility system, which has resulted in a reduction of tree related outages.
- Why do electric utilities have to trim trees?
Trees are one of the major causes of power outages. When a tree limb comes in contact with an energized power line it results in a "short circuit". This may be an instantaneous operation where the lights blink for just a moment and you have to reset all your digital clocks, or it can result in an outage where several customers or even several streets are without power. Tree limbs also provide pathways for squirrels to gain access to the transformers and other facilities on our poles resulting in another major cause of outages, and a major cause of squirrel mortality.
- We understand the need for tree trimming, but why so much? Can't you just trim a little and come back more often?
That is exactly what the Electric Utility has done. The Electric Utility has established an eighteen month trim cycle which means that our contractor performs maintenance pruning on the entire electric system every eighteen months. This has allowed the amount of pruning required each cycle to be significantly reduced. This has been accomplished without any increase in the overall costs of the program and has demonstrated a more aesthetically pleasing appearance after the trimming has been performed. We have also found that by inspecting the trees every eighteen months and trimming only those that have grown into the clearance zone, it has helped to reduce the overall number of tree related outages experienced by our customers.
- So is that the answer?
There is no single acceptable answer to the Tree/ Power line conflict. Good "vegetation management" requires a tree trimming cycle based on regional tree growth rates, and available funding. Just like in your garden or yard, utility vegetation management requires the removal of species that are creating problems and replacing them with species that are more compatible with their surroundings. A catch phrase that people should remember when planting a tree is "Plant the Right Tree in the Right Place". When purchasing a tree for your yard talk to the person you are buying it from. Find out what its mature height will be, how much it will spread, what shape the crown will have, etc. This information will help you decide where the tree can be planted to avoid future conflicts.
- That makes sense. What else can the public do to help reduce the frequency of outages and still have the beautiful trees Tallahassee is known for?
First, understand that the Electric Utility trims trees as a service to our customers. It is an integral part of our goal to provide you with reliable electric service. Second, keep an open mind when our line clearance crews explain why trimming activities are occurring. Third, please be patient, we realize that proper line clearance work initially affects the "aesthetically pleasing" look of a beautiful canopy however, after a few weeks the regrowth from the tree tends to soften the effect of the trimming. Finally, by allowing our contractor to utilize the proper trimming techniques the trees remain healthy with the regrowth from the tree tending to be less conflicting with the power lines. Over time the pruning technique being utilized should train the tree growth away from the power lines further reducing the amount of trimming that will have to be performed.
- Can we, your customers, have input into how our trees are trimmed?
Yes you can. Our contractor has two Customer Notification Coordinators that precede the tree crews into a neighborhood. These coordinators will talk with you and explain what trimming is necessary and will listen to your suggestions as to how you would like the "finished product" to look. If they are not able to speak to you personally they will leave a notice on your door with a telephone number to call if you have any questions or concerns.
If you have other questions about the utility forestry program please feel free to call or email City of Tallahassee Electric Utility Forester, 891.4YOU (4968).