LENOIR — Whether by helicopter trimming, tree cutting or use of herbicide, local utility Blue Ridge Energy says its vegetation management program tries to find the best solution for everyone.
The program is designed to clear the right of way for its more than 8,300 miles of power lines and usually starts with a telephone call.
“Before vegetation is trimmed or treated, members are contacted in advance by telephone,” Blue Ridge Energy’s Renee Whitener said. “If we cannot reach a member to speak with them or leave a voicemail, a post card is sent to make them aware of the planned vegetation management.”
Whitener said these notifications include a contact number for customers to ask questions. When asked if customers can opt out, Whitener said the utility works to compromise with the customers.
“We try to come up with a good solution for the member and make sure that the right of way is maintained for the reliability of members’ electricity as well as the safety for the linemen.”
Some of the “good solutions” include a tree-voucher program so property owners can get a lower-growing tree in place of a tree that needs to be removed. Other programs include discounts to purchase seeds for low-growing wildlife in order to beautify a right of way. Whitener said BRE is currently developing a butterfly habitat that can be used in its right of ways.
Right of ways vary based on types of power lines, ranging from a collective 30-foot buffer for distribution power lines to a 250-foot corridor for the large transmission lines.
The vegetation management program clears each circuit every six years, with a mid-trim every three years, according to BRE.
Along with trimming, the utility uses herbicide in woody, unmaintained areas, Whitener said.
“The use of herbicide is cost effective and less invasive than mechanical trimming,” BRE’s website states. “It is selectively applied to tall woody species leaving behind weeds and grasses that will not interfere with lines. This selective clearing is also more useful to wildlife.”
BRE says the chemicals they use leave no residual effects and doesn’t stay active in the soil after the plant is killed.
Whitener said that trees account for 65 percent of BRE’s outage time.