Preventing Disaster – SDCEA’s Vegetation Management Program
Work continues on SDCEA’s vegetation management project near the Cotopaxi and Howard areas. Later this summer, the project will shift to the Twin Lakes area.
Why were these locations chosen for work this year? Because both were identified as being in great need of immediate management action. The vegetation management program is an ongoing project throughout our service territory for the foreseeable future. We hope that our consumers understand why we are taking on this project — to provide reliable, safe power to our communities.
Locally, there is a high threat of wildfire in our region. Vegetation in or near electric lines can spark and start a fire in a very short time. Winds that blow in our area could spread that fire very quickly. When electric lines come in contact with vegetation, they can reach 32,000 degrees. That is enough to ignite any tree, house, grass or anything else near the line.
We encourage you to visit our website. Under the Safety tab, click on Vegetation Management to view two links to videos we posted regarding the recent Camp Fire in California where lives were lost. Communities, property and more were destroyed. As your community cooperative, Sangre de Cristo is committed to keeping our residents safe.
The majority of outages on SDCEA’s system are due to trees coming in to contact with electric lines. Clearing lines eliminates that contact and helps maintain consistent, safe power.
Clearing lines of vegetation gives lineworkers the ability to look down the right-of-way to see what the cause of an outage is fairly quickly.
A downed power line takes much longer to restore when crews must detangle, clear or work around obstacles caused by branches, brush and other vegetation. To ensure reliability, SDCEA has a yearly work plan that includes upgrading and rebuilding line. Some of the vegetation on our system prevents crews from accessing lines due for an upgrade, so the vegetation must be removed.
Financially, the liability of not maintaining our lines is a great concern. The power provider for the communities affected by the aforementioned Camp Fire in California was deemed financially liable for that wildfire. A common question we receive in the office is how to determine which trees will be removed by SDCEA’s contractor Asplundh. Any tree trunk that’s within 20 feet of the center of a power pole or line could be cut down.
If you are to measure that distance from side to side in total, that’s 40 feet, the pole or line being in the center, 20 feet either side. The canopy from a tree outside the 20 feet will be trimmed back to the 20 feet, but not taken out unless it is a danger tree. Danger trees are trees that are dead or alive that are leaning toward the line and that can reach the line if they fall and will be taken out in order to eliminate this hazard.
Crews are instructed to grind wood into mulch and spread the mulch around the site where vegetation is cut. If a homeowner prefers, crews will leave the wood. Homeowners just need to talk to the Asplundh crew when they are there to make that request.