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Dead tree near power lines Aug. 29, 2023

NAEC tackling dead trees to avoid potential outages

North Arkansas Electric Cooperative and contractors have begun an extended effort to eliminate the threat dead trees pose to the more than 5,000 miles of line that make up the distribution system. 

When dead trees in and near the right-of-way inevitably fall, they often take power lines and poles down with them. This not only poses a safety concern for members of the public but also causes sometimes-lengthy outages for NAEC members while line personnel must repair the damage. 

“The co-op wants to take a more proactive, systematic, circuit-by-circuit approach to these dead trees,” said James Woody, vice president of operations. “The past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of dead trees, particularly ash trees, along our lines, and that has led to increased outages for our membership when storms or time eventually take them.” 

During the next four months, NAEC employees and contractors will concentrate on the dead trees that are along the three-phase power lines, “topping off” dead trees inside of the right-of-way as well as dead trees outside of the right-of-way that will reach power lines when they fall. As is consistent with NAEC’s policy, they will leave the dead tree or tree sections on the property where they do not cause a property access issue.

Crews will begin with the three-phase lines and then will address single-phase lines. The issues with dead trees on the single-phase lines will take much longer to address due to the shear number of trees and miles of line. That work will continue into 2024 and beyond.

“This project represents a large financial investment on the co-op’s part, but we consider it worthwhile to improve service reliability for our members as well as to help limit costly repairs from these dead trees damaging our system in the future,” Woody said. 

NAEC members can help prevent future tree-related outages by considering the location before planting a new one. Guidelines include: 

  • Do not plant shrubs or trees within 30 feet of the power lines. Any vegetation taller than 10 feet in that area will be trimmed or removed. 
  • Plant medium trees that will be less than 40 feet when mature at least 30 feet away from power lines. 
  • Plant larger trees that will be more than 40 feet when mature at least 50 feet away from lines.

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