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Trees and Transmission Lines

  Transmission lines triptych - jpg

About Transmissions Lines

Transmission lines are high voltage power lines ranging from 69,000 to 345,000 volts that transmit power long distances. OPPD’s transmission system consists of a variety of line sizes and shapes, but all may produce hazardous conditions if vegetation grows too close to the lines.

OPPD’s Vegetation Management Program is committed to controlling vegetation growth within transmission line rights-of-way to maintain the safe and reliable operation of the electric transmission system. This minimizes adverse impacts on the environment.

Additionally, federal, regional and electric industry regulations and standards require minimum safety clearances to ensure vegetation doesn’t come into contact with high-voltage overhead transmission lines. If vegetation located in the transmission right-of-way is not compatible with the safe operation of the system, it can result in widespread electric power outages or unsafe conditions for the public.


Conductor Sag and Sway

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Lines sag from high loads and hot weather. Lines sway in high winds. Both need to be considered when determining if trees need trimming or removed. Remember, power lines, or conductors look innocent but the only insulation they have is the air around them.





Transmission lines easement right-of-way - jpgRight-of-way is the actual strip of land defined in the easement. An easement is a right given to another to encroach upon land not owned by the utility in order to access utility power lines. Easement rights allow OPPD to enter the easement area to trim or remove vegetation and to trim trees adjacent to the right-of-way to eliminate danger trees that could potentially fall within 15 feet of the conductor. Right-of-way widths depend primarily on the size of the power line and typically range from 50 to 200 feet.

Topics of Interest

Vegetation Management Program

OPPD’s Vegetation Management Program maintains the vegetation on more than 1,200 miles of metropolitan and rural transmission Transmission line inspection - jpgeasements in Southeast Nebraska. These maintenance activities are necessary to provide safe and reliable service to all customers within and outside OPPD’s service territory. Maintenance activities include trimming and removing trees, mowing, applying herbicide, and eliminating hazardous tree–power line conditions.

Transmission lines are inspected periodically to determine if vegetation needs mid-cycle trimming due to insufficient power line clearances. The inspection includes surveying transmission lines for danger trees and non-compliant tree plantings. If mid-cycle trimming is needed, it is in the best interest of OPPD and the customer to completely remove the tree.


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Tree Trimming

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Tree trimming provides for mandatory clearances between power lines and trees. Trees at the edge of the right-of-way are trimmed to eliminate branches growing into the easement space. Tree trimming may be done by crews utilizing mechanical trimming equipment, aerial lift trucks, or by climbing crews.

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Tree Removal

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Transmission crews remove vegetation that threatens the safe and reliable operation of the electric transmission system. It is the purpose of OPPD's vegetation management program to remove all incompatible trees and shrubs located within the right-of-way.

Transmission line right-of-way danger tree - jpg



Any tree that poses a potential hazard to the integrity of the transmission line is considered a danger tree and will be removed.


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Transmission line easement mowing - jpgOPPD contractor crews clear vegetation and redefine the easement width with light-duty power equipment. Vegetation near structures, support wires, fences, streams or other difficult-to-access areas may be removed using manual equipment.

A combination of mowing and low volume herbicide applications are used to manage tall growing woody vegetation. This integrated vegetation management approach helps promote and establish a stable, diverse, low-growing plant community on the right-of-way, reducing the potential for soil erosion and is beneficial for wildlife.

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Guidelines for Planting in a Transmission Right-of-Way

Transmission line right-of-way planting guidelines - jpg

The following guidelines will help when planning landscaping in and around a transmission right-of-way.

  • Prior approval by an OPPD Forester must be obtained before planting in a transmission line right-of-way. Contact OPPD’s Forestry Department for a consultation.
  • No tree or shrub species will be allowed to grow adjacent to structures and support wires.
  • The potential height of a tree or shrub species, and planting location will determine whether it is acceptable within the right-of-way.
  • Grasses and wildflowers are allowed within the established right-of-way without restriction.
  • Please remember that vegetation located within or along the immediate edge of the right-of-way is planted at your own risk. It may be necessary to remove vegetation if it interferes with emergency restoration or line maintenance or construction.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are general in nature, designed to increase the property owners’ knowledge of their easements. OPPD has purchased similar rights on most easements. Click on the question to move to the appropriate answer.

Why does OPPD perform vegetation maintenance on transmission rights-of-way?

Transmission lines are only insulated by air. They require regular maintenance of surrounding vegetation to sustain minimum clearances of obstructions. OPPD’s vegetation management program ensures the transmission system meets company, industry and federal standards to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of electricity to customers, while also providing access to maintain facilities.

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Have your policies changed for maintaining transmission line rights-of-way?

Yes. Previously it was not uncommon for OPPD to deviate from policy and allow certain trees and vegetation to remain. OPPD also allowed trimming and pruning rather than removal to provide adequate clearances between power lines and trees. This approach has repeatedly proven to be ineffective in the utility industry in preventing outages, arcing, and fire and shock hazards.

Industry standards for right-of-way management have changed in recent years as a result of several widespread outages including one in the northeast affecting 50 million people in eight states and portions of Canada. Utilities operating high-voltage transmission lines are required to establish and follow a vegetation management program that eliminates all threats to safety and reliability of high-voltage transmission lines.

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Does OPPD have the right to trim or remove a property owner’s tree?

Yes. OPPD owns a right-of-way easement the length of all transmission lines allowing OPPD to trim or remove all trees and brush on or near the right-of-way as needed to safely and efficiency survey, construct, reconstruct, relocate, inspect, repair, replace, maintain, operate and remove transmission lines. The easement also permits OPPD to trim or remove trees that could potentially fall within 15 feet of the nearest power line.

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Is OPPD or the OPPD subcontractor trespassing when they come onto private property?

No, OPPD's easement allows access to private property to construct, reconstruct, operate, maintain, and patrol transmission lines.

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Will I be notified before vegetation maintenance is performed on my property?

An OPPD representative will make every attempt to notify you of work that needs to be completed. However, it may be necessary to perform emergency trimming or removal without prior notification to eliminate potential tree-power line hazards.

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Why does OPPD have to trim my tree when there’s already plenty of clearance between the tree and the transmission line?

Right-of-way widths range from 50 to 200 feet depending on the size of the power line. The higher the voltage of the power line, the more clearance required. Electricity traveling through these lines will look for the most direct path to the ground by jumping or arcing to nearby objects including a tall-growing tree. To avoid this, we maintain a safe distance between power lines and tree limbs.

A clear zone is maintained on all sides and below power lines to maintain a safe distance between anything that can conduct electricity. Allowances must also be made for line sag, wind and weather conditions. A heavy electrical load on a very hot day will heat-up and stretch power lines causing them to sag. Because the amount of sag varies, a safe clearance in winter may not provide the same safety on a summer day. Additional hazards include heavy winds that can blow branches into power lines and extra weight from snow and ice that bend or break branches causing a potential flashover.

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Does OPPD apply herbicides to undesirable vegetation on the right of way?

Yes. OPPD uses qualified contractors to apply herbicides that are approved and labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency. The use of herbicides allows for selective removal of undesirable vegetation with minimal impact to the surrounding environment while extending the time interval between more invasive practices such as mowing. Maintaining rights-of-way with the use of herbicides frequently results in more ecologically diverse, healthy and aesthetically pleasing corridors than those maintained only by mechanical means.

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Does OPPD have the right to trim or remove a tree that is located outside a transmission line right-of-way?

Yes, OPPD will trim or remove a tree if it is structurally weakened, is considered a fast-growing or soft-wooded species, or if it poses a danger to the integrity of the transmission line. A danger tree is defined as any tree located inside or outside the right-of-way that would fall within 15 feet of a power line or within 5 feet of a transmission structure. Most easements grant OPPD the right to trim or remove such trees for the protection of the transmission line and the safety and reliability of the transmission system.

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Can I plant and grow trees in the transmission line right-of-way?

Most trees should not be planted within the right-of-way. OPPD will approve selected low-growing vegetation at carefully chosen locations provided it does not exceed other requirements for reliable operation or impede access to the transmission line. Contact OPPD’s Forestry Department for a consultation. Remember vegetation located within or along the immediate edge of the right-of-way is planted at your own risk.

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Can I put a deer stand on an OPPD right-of-way?

Yes. Deer stands should be located in the outer edge of the right-of-way and must not exceed 15 feet in height. Do not attach deer stands to power poles or under power lines.

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