There are about 230 miles of overhead power lines along the Juneau road system. Since we live in a temperate rain forest, it stands to reason that these power lines are adjacent to a lot of trees, which can be a problem.
Vegetation Management Program: A quick look at our outage log reveals that trees contacting power lines are a major cause of power outages. To combat this, our Vegetation Management program endeavors to maintain clear paths for power lines, which in turn reduces the frequency and the length of outages considerably. It also allows our crews to quickly and safely access the power line, identify an outage cause, and make a quicker repair. In addition, trees growing into or very near power lines can become energized, creating a serious hazard to people, pets and equipment. Also, electricity going through trees into the ground costs us all money, similar to leaving your water running while nobody is using it.
When we have an easement, we cut down all trees growing within 15 feet of the lines, and we cut branches reaching into the easement from adjacent trees. We cannot cut down a tree growing outside of our easement without permission from the property owner.
To prioritize tree-clearing efforts, AEL&P balances the likelihood of having an issue on a line with the number of customers impacted by a disruption to that line. If the likelihood of an issue along a circuit is large and the circuit feeds many customers, that area will receive more attention than an area where trees are sparse or lines feed a small number of customers.
Trees grow back, and in some areas you can see small trees reaching into high-voltage lines. Occasionally branches on those trees contact the lines, causing minor arcing. This light contact made by twigs or small branches rarely cause damage. On occasion, this contact is severe enough that we send a line crew to cut the tree or branches, which often requires a short outage to perform the work safely.
Maintenance of trees standing outside of our easement is not the responsibility of AEL&P, and AEL&P does not have an easement for the service conductors that connect to a customer's meter base. When a tree outside of our easement falls on power lines and causes damage to customer-owned equipment, like a mast or meter base, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to repair the damage prior to being reconnected.
Our Vegetation Management Program is the largest annual maintenance expense at AEL&P, with most tree cutting performed by a specialty contractor. In 2014, we spent approximately $1 million to manage vegetation along 230 miles of overhead power lines running adjacent to Juneau's road system.
Keep us in mind when planting trees and shrubs: Consider what size your tree will be at full growth. Spruce, hemlock and pine should be planted 40 feet or more from power poles. Smaller trees should be planted at least 15-20 feet away. Please do not plant any size tree or shrub within 15 feet of a pole. Grass and flowers may be planted, but be aware that our equipment operates within the right-of-way path, putting those plants at risk.
For more information about this program, call our Transmission & Distribution Department at (907) 463-6324.
- Line crew replacing damaged power pole at mile 17
- Typical damage from December snows
- Line crew working on Lena Loop Road in mid-December