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'If you are able to avoid planting trees near power lines, we are one step closer to maintaining a safe electric system.'

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Michael J. SykesNow that spring is here, we are all feeling a little antsy to get outside. With Earth Day and Arbor Day on the horizon, for many of us that means working in the garden and planting new trees.

Trees are a tremendous benefit for the environment and can help add character and beauty to your property. If planted in the wrong place, however, they can also cause a threat.

Trees growing near power lines present the risk of sparking wildfires or causing power outages. If you're thinking about planting trees on your property this spring, I ask you to consider planting them as far away from power lines as you can.

Snow and ice storms like we had last month can bring down trees and limbs onto power lines. So can windstorms like the one we had in January. When trees or branches contact power lines, they can cause disruptions in electric service. If they fall through the lines and knock them to the ground, they can cause widespread power outages.

During dry summer months, this has the potential to create a dangerous situation. If a branch contacts a power line, it may cause electrical arcing or sparking. In dry, windy conditions like we had last summer, this can lead to fires.

This is why we aggressively trim trees near power lines. However, that takes time and money. If you are able to avoid planting trees near power lines, we are one step closer to maintaining a safe electric system.

In addition to avoiding overhead power lines, it's also important to be mindful of underground power lines. Before digging to plant trees, be sure to call 8-1-1, the utility locating service. This free service will locate underground power, water, sewer, gas, and communication lines.

Once you have located any underground utilities, make sure to plant trees a safe distance away. This will ensure the tree's roots don't encroach on them when the trees mature.

When you're surveying your property for prime planting locations, keep in mind that trees can also make your home more energy efficient. Planting deciduous trees on the west and south sides of your home can provide cooling shade from the afternoon sun in the summertime. In the winter, when their leaves are gone, they allow sunlight in to warm your home.

Choosing the right tree and the right place is crucial when planting trees, especially when it comes to power lines. To help avoid future electrical dangers, please remember to:

• Think about the height of trees when they're fully grown. Don't plant any trees near power lines that could grow within 30 feet of it. Keep tall-growing trees at least 50 feet — preferably more — away from power lines.

• Do not plant trees near underground services. Roots can interfere with underground conduit, cables, and wires.

• Keep areas around electric meters, transformers, or other electrical equipment free of trees or plants that could limit access for the PUD.

• Before digging to plant your trees, call 8-1-1.

Trees help make our community a more beautiful place, and they provide countless benefits. When you're planting trees this year, please help us avoid potential danger. Don't plant trees near power lines.

Michael J. Sykes is general manager of the Columbia River People's Utility District.


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