Let Pros Handle Trees Near Power Lines

Safety Trimming of Trees Near Power Lines Is a Free Service of The PUD

The Trees, Inc., crew (clockwise from lower left, Gene Mortenson, Matt Hartman, and Christian Castillo), work with Dave Taphouse, PUD Certified Arborist, at right, to make sure power lines are clear and reduce the risk of power outage, fire damage and injury to the public. Kathy Ursprung photo

Trees and shrubs have been putting on rapid spring growth over the past few months and that means some of them may be getting a little too close to power lines for safety—but that doesn’t mean you should start pruning.

“No trimming should be done on trees if they are closer than 10 feet to the line,” says Dave Taphouse, Certified arborist for Northern Wasco County PUD.

That’s a job for the professionals, and in the PUD’s service district, Dave and the trimming crew from Trees, Inc., are the professionals you should call.

Dave is not like the private arborists around the area. He is specially trained in tree trimming for utilities. He knows how to avoid personal injury and damage to the power lines, as well as how to encourage tree growth away from lines.

“Our pruning will be different from another certified arborist’s,” Dave says. “We look at the tree and trim it to keep it healthy and away from the lines.”

Safely trimming trees near power lines requires special training and is done by journeymen tree-trimmers.

Dave started with the PUD in 2005 as what he calls a “grunt,” clearing away trimmings. He completed a two-year arborist apprenticeship in 2016, shortly before the PUD did away with its in-house tree crew and hired Trees, Inc., as a private contractor. That’s when he took charge of planning jobs for the crew.

“If someone has a problem, they call me and I go out and take a look and set up the job.”

Right now, an important project for Trees, Inc., is a little closer to the ground. One of the workers is involved in a three-month project of vegetation management around transmission lines to reduce the danger of fire damage. They have been working on the Threemile line from Parklawn Cemetery to Tygh Valley and on Moody Road to Celilo Village—482 poles in all. They’ve removed vegetation in a 10-foot radius around each pole, then sprayed the area so it stays clear.

“They’re trying to get to spots that are vulnerable to fire, especially transmission lines,” Dave says. “These lines are pretty important. They affect a lot of people.”

Trees, Inc., has been working for the PUD for three years so far on a five-year contract. “They’re very professional,” Dave says. “And they all live in this area and are part of the community.”

They work all year long.

During the heavy snows, they had a lot of downed branches to remove or branches that were at risk of damaging the lines.

Now the crew is clearing away branches that have grown too close to the lines. This is not a job property owners should tackle on their own, as one homeowner recently learned when he knocked down a primary line while trimming. He was fortunate not to

have been injured by an arcing line, but power was out to the area until the PUD could repair it. “If we would’ve known, we would have done a safety trim so the branches wouldn’t hit the line,” Dave says.

A safety trim provides 10 feet of clearance around the primary power line. The service is free of charge. Call Dave at the PUD, (541) 296-2226, to make arrangements. About a week’s notice is needed for routine issues so that the job can be fit into the trimming schedule.

Brochures like this one available at the Northern Wasco County PUD office provide information on species that grow lower to avoid conflict with power lines.

The crew is currently working on some of the more remote poles in the Rowena area where they have to walk in all their bucket gear. It is particularly important for the fire guard against fire in those areas, Dave says.

The Trees, Inc., crew has also been removing a lot of dead pine trees near power lines, victims of pine beetle infestation. If property owners don’t want the wood, it is removed for use in Wasco County’s free firewood program.

Property owners can avoid need the PUD’s tree-trimming services by choosing lower-growing trees and shrubs for landscaping near lines and knowing where the right-of-way is for utilities.

A few low-growing species to consider are flowering plums, dogwood, and arborvitae. The PUD has information brochures at their office on more utility-friendly species and safety tips for planting near power lines.