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Transmission Lines & Trees FAQ

Transmission Lines & Trees FAQ

Why does OPPD perform vegetation maintenance on transmission right-of-ways?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Why does OPPD have to trim my tree when there’s 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Don't see your question listed above?

If you have other questions about trees and power lines, call 402-536-4131 in Omaha or 1-877-536-4131 outside the metro, or contact OPPD Forestry.