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When Trees Fight With Overhead Wires, Trees Lose

Trees growing into electric wires have been a problem ever since electricity was harnessed. As people become more aware of trees, their structure and health needs, they look at utility pruning in a different light. For large, mature trees near electric wires, however, it is too late to do anything about it.

New, stricter New York State utility pruning standards have resulted in many complaints to the utilities. However, there are stiff penalties for failure to comply with these pruning standards. These standards are much less tree-friendly than the standards used for pruning trees in your yard. The state’s mandate to utilities is to reduce power outages, and most disruptions are caused by trees coming in contact with wires.

When you have large trees under or near power lines, you really have only two choices –to live with the hard pruning that utilities, and their contractors, are forced to practice or replace the trees with a lower growing species that will never be tall enough to touch the wires. An arborist can help you select lower growing trees. They, and utilities, have access to a number of resources in print and online. One book, entitled Street Tree Factsheets, has been around since 1993. This volume has facts about 182 popular northeastern species and cultivars, and each one is keyed with red, yellow or green. Of course red means that it shouldn’t be planted near utility wires, yellow means that it could grow tall enough to interfere with wires and green means that it will not grow tall enough to interfere.

Our last blog was on renovating your landscape. If you have a tree that interferes with electric wires and requires constant pruning, include its replacement in your landscape plan. If the tree interferes with wires going from pole to pole, the utility may be happy to remove the tree for you. It will cost them much less to remove an interfering tree than to keep pruning it every few years. If the tree interferes with service wires – those going from the pole to the house – you’ll know how much pruning costs, since keeping them pruned is your responsibility.

Even if your utilities are underground, you have to be sure that you don’t interfere with wires and pipes when planting. There is an 800 number to call to have utilities “flagged.” If you hire a landscape contractor to do your new renovations, they will take care of having utilities flagged.

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