Clear right-of-ways strengthen electric system


Gibson Electric takes many steps to ensure you receive reliable, affordable and safe electric service.

Planning and executing a systematic right-of-way clearing (or vegetation management) program is one of the most important things we do. A right-of-way (ROW) is a strip of land underneath or around power lines that Gibson Electric has a right and responsibility to clear and maintain. Trees and tree limbs must be kept far enough away from conductors that they will not pose a safety risk or disrupt electric service.


“Through our vegetation management program, Gibson Electric strives to maintain a 15-foot clearance on either side of the primary conductors and a 20-foot clearance above the highest wire on the pole,” said Barry Smith, Gibson Electric VP of Engineering and Operations. “Maintaining the ROW is critical to keeping our members’ lights on. Nationwide, about 15 percent of power interruptions occur when trees, shrubs or bushes grow too close to power lines.”


ROW clearing also keeps your family safe by ensuring that tree branches do not become energized due to close contact with a downed power line. Our power lines carry up to 25,000 volts, and an energized tree branch is incredibly dangerous — even deadly. Be mindful when around trees that are near power lines, and make sure young children know that climbing trees near power lines is extremely dangerous.


ROW clearing is also critical to ensuring that we provide members with affordable electricity. Staying ahead of the game keeps us from having to come out after a storm to restore power due to fallen trees.

Fewer and shorter outages save money for everyone. When crews work in well-maintained areas, we can reduce safety risks for employees and equipment too – another way to keep costs low. However, ROW management has long been one of Gibson Electric’s highest expenses and in recent years, the annual costs have risen dramatically.

Gibson Electric trims trees on a regular cycle, Smith said. “With over 3,600 miles of electric line, it’s crucial to our members’ service reliability that we plan well and implement an efficient, environmentally sound, and systematic vegetation management program.”

Gibson Electric’s foresters help ensure that our trimming methods promote tree wound healing. Tree limbs are cut at the intersection of the nearest large limb, rather than at mid-stem. These techniques direct tree growth away from the power lines and are recommended by professional arborists and the National Arbor Day Foundation.

“Although most people would prefer that we not trim their trees at all, we hope our members understand that it’s in their best interest that we maintain the right-of-way,” Smith said. “We also hope that it provides peace of mind that we make every effort to trim in a way that protects the trees’ health while also protecting member and public safety, service reliability, and service affordability.”

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