VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
Trees and power lines make lousy neighbors. North Itasca Electric Cooperative will be removing trees and brush in the following townships in 2014 and early 2015: Forest Grove, Evergreen, Bridge, Englewood, Pinetop, Wildwood, Plum Creek, Hornet and Nore. Clearing within the right-of-way areas will begin in June and continue through early 2015. Please see the map below identifying areas scheduled for clearing. The right-of-way required is 40 feet, 20 feet on each side of primary lines and pole, and 10 feet minimum on each side of secondary lines. If you do not have overhead power lines on your property, no trees and brush will be removed.
Q & A - Your Cooperative's Vegetation Management Program
Why does North Itasca clear power lines?
Safety: Our primary distribution lines carry 7,200 volts. We need proper clearance to protect lives. A tree touching an overhead primary line can become an energized conductor. Electricity takes the path of least resistance to ground and people or animals touching a tree that is leaning against or has fallen on an overhead distribution line are at risk of electrocution.
To provide reliable service: North Itasca's main cause of power interruptions and outages are trees and vegetation that come in contact with power lines. Trees or brush that touch electric lines create short circuits that cause your lights to blink, clocks to be interrupted, and computerized devices to lose information. During storms, trees often fall across lines causing outages by breaking lines or short circuiting them. When major storms occur, the overwhelming number of fallen trees needing to be removed causes widespread outages to last much longer than they would otherwise.
To control the cost of service: Clearing of power lines is one of North Itasca's largest expenses. By permanently removing trees and tall shrubs from the rights-of-way on a scheduled basis, the ongoing cost of clearing activities is significantly reduced.Trees and brush interfering with power lines can increase costs in other ways too. It takes longer for line crews to find problems and make repairs if they cannot see or get to problems. Also, trees and brush that touch power lines actually waste electricity, which North Itasca members ultimately pay for, by providing a path for it to flow to ground.
To protect people and property: A spark from trees and brush touching power lines can cause fires - especially during dry conditions. Trees can become the ignition source of a forest fire that might also threaten your home or cabin.
Why must you clear trees and shrubs so far away from the lines?
To improve system reliability, North Itasca modified the clearing program in the early 1990s to maintain its nearly 820 miles of overhead distribution line. The program calls for a standard clearing width of 40 feet (20 feet on each side of the line) for overhead distribution. This is necessary for several reasons:
Costs are reduced if trees and brush can be removed far enough away that clearing is not needed again for at least six years. Service reliability is improved if trees and brush are far enough away from lines to prevent any possible contact.
Underground power lines have a 20-foot right of way, 10 feet on each side of the line. Currently North Itasca is not actively re-clearing these. During a maintenance or trouble call North Itasca will clear these to gain access to our equipment as required.
Work crews also need adequate access to lines to conduct repairs quickly and safely.
How do I know what will be removed or trimmed and when it will happen?
The primary lines, of which several types exist, are the main lines that provide electric service to you and your neighbors. The primary lines supply power up to the transformer that serves your home, cabin or business.
If you have overhead electric service, transformers can be identified by looking for the large "can" near the top of the pole closest to your home, cabin or business. The line from the transformer to your service location is the secondary or service wire. Trees and brush are only trimmed to a minimum of 10 either side of secondary line.
Before any main line work is done on your property, you will receive a notification letter that a contractor will soon be in the area doing routine maintenance on the power lines. We will also publish in the Watts News a map of townships within our service territory scheduled for clearing. If the contractor determines that the work is routine maintenance, then the original letter will serve as your only notification. If the contractor determines that there needs to be tree removal or major side trimming, the contractor will attempt to make contact with you before the removal and/or major trimming work begins. You can discuss what clearing will be performed on your property and various options that may be available depending on the situation.
How are trees and shrubs selected for clearing?
Generally, all standing vegetation within the designated right of way will be removed. Even brush and shrubs that will not grow to the height of the lines will need to be removed to provide line crews with adequate access to the line for inspection and maintenance.
Why are some trees trimmed and others removed?
To accomplish its goal of providing reliable electric service, North Itasca will not trim trees to grow around the lines. Trees need to be removed if any portion of the trunk is located within the clearing zone, which is 20 feet on each side of the primary line except at North Itasca's discretion in maintained yard areas.
Healthy trees outside the clearing zone are trimmed if their branches encroach into the cleared area. Also, danger trees located outside of the clearing zone will be removed if they are a threat to primary overhead lines.
What and where can I replant so it won't be cut in the future?
All plantings must be placed far enough away that the mature tree or shrub branches cannot grow into or over the cleared area to prevent the removal of side branches which can affect the aesthetics of the trees or shrubs.
Any trees or shrubs planted within 20 feet on either side of the lines in yard areas or within 20 feet of either side of the lines in other areas will be removed during the next clearing cycle. In addition, any vegetation remaining within the cleared area is at continuous risk for damage without compensation if the lines must be accessed for operation, maintenance or replacement.
Can I transplant trees from the right of way to an area outside of the right of way?
Absolutely. That is why we begin the communications process early so members have time to transplant if they wish to save a particular tree. The University of Minnesota Extension Service is an excellent source of information on tree transplanting and proper care.
What happens to waste from the clearing activities?
North Itasca's contractors have a clear set of standards for handling debris from clearing operations. Wood that is large enough for firewood or sale by the owner can be cut to 100-inch lengths upon request and will be left for the owner's use. Smaller debris generally is spread or piled along the cleared area except near homes or cabins. Special requests should be discussed when the contractor contacts you about clearing activities.
Why don't you put all those lines underground so you don't have to cut the trees?
Your cooperative's long range work plan continues to identify overhead line that needs replacing. In those cases, more line is being converted to underground line. However, many overhead lines are in great shape and are not in need of replacing. To replace perfectly good overhead line with underground is simply not cost effective.
I have a tree that I want to cut down, but it is near the power lines. Will North Itasca cut it down for me?
In many cases, yes. It depends on each individual situation. North Itasca will only consider cutting down those trees that threaten the integrity of the electric system. When a member requests to have a tree(s) trimmed or removed, a North Itasca employee from the line department will visit the location to determine if it is North Itasca's responsibility and if it can be safely removed. North Itasca will not cut down a tree if there is any danger of the tree falling on a structure or causing any kind of damage to the member's property (buildings, landscaped areas, permanent yard ornaments, etc.). If this is the case, you will be able to schedule to have the power line dropped, free of charge, while you or your tree contractor performs your work. If North Itasca does trim or remove a tree(s), the tree will only be trimmed/dropped to remove the threat to the power lines. Most of this work will be completed during the winter months, unless this is an immediate threat to the safety and reliability of our system. Clean up of any debris and site restoral are the responsibility of the member.
Vegetation management is integral to providing safe reliable electric service to our members. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions or concerns about North Itasca's vegetation management program, please contact the office at 218-743-3131.
Below is a system map of the townships that will be cleared for the power line rights of way. The areas affected in 2014 will be State Hwy. 1 from the intersection of State Hwy 6 going west to Northome reaching as far south as the Funkley area, and continuing north along U.S. Hwy. 71 to the Gemmell area.