Vegetation management - Great River Energy

Vegetation management

Keeping the area around power lines clear is critical to maintaining a safe, reliable electric system. Great River Energy closely follows industry standards, including those outlined in the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) and requirements of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

How do you know when to remove or prune trees?

Great River Energy inspects its lines each year by air or by ground for:

  • Trees that are growing too near or could grow too near a power line
  • Equipment needing repair or replacement
  • Easement encroachments
  • Anything that might jeopardize safe, reliable operation of the line

Will you enter my property to remove or prune trees?

Yes. Occasionally crews may have to enter your property to remove or prune trees or to perform other maintenance. In the event of an emergency, quick and direct access may be necessary for major repair. Great River Energy typically uses existing field or access roads with your permission and makes every effort to avoid damaging your property. We (or our contractor) will make a reasonable effort to contact you first. However, in emergencies, it may not be possible to contact you beforehand.

Do you use herbicides?

Where conditions permit and with the property owner’s permission, Great River Energy also uses herbicides as an effective and economical method of controlling tree and brush growth. Great River Energy’s herbicide application methods follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agency regulations. Herbicides are applied by licensed applicators.

What is Emerald Ash Borer? How is Great River Energy handling it?

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive wood-boring beetle. It has devastated ash populations wherever it has become established. EAB has been found in several counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, includ­ing Chisago and Douglas. EAB kills ash trees when the larvae under the bark become so extensive they prevent the flow of nutrients and water through­out the tree. This “girdling” starves all parts of the tree, killing it from the top down.

All species of ash trees are susceptible to EAB, and millions of ash trees have been killed in infested areas already. Minnesota has one of the largest populations of ash in the U.S. with an estimated 900 million trees grow­ing in urban and natural forests. The potential economic and environmen­tal impacts of losing these trees are substantial. Where ash occur in home landscapes, the cost to remove and replace trees can reach into the thou­sands of dollars.

Great River Energy has been working with other utilities in the area to develop an EAB Management and Response Plan. We are learning from other utilities that it is critical to be proactive. EAB popula­tions quickly expand, making a reactive approach unmanageable and less effec­tive.

How do you handle Dutch elm disease and oak wilt?

We handle elm and oak wood cut from rights of way according to local and state regulations.

How much of a clear zone do you need for safe operation?

For safety and reliability, Great River Energy requires a minimum 15-foot clear zone (sometimes more) on both sides of any transmission line, measured from the base of the structure.

Can I plant anything in the right of way?

For your benefit, DO NOT plant in the right of way before talking to Great River Energy first. As a landowner, even with an easement granted to Great River Energy, most property rights do remain with you, but we do not want to have to remove your new tree. Activities in the easement area that do not interfere with the safe construction, operation and maintenance of the line are permitted, such as using the land for pastureland, farming or gardening.

What about native habitat?

Native habitat is a great replacement for transmission rights of way. For more than a decade, Great River Energy has worked to re-establish more than 600 acres of native habitat at our facilities and along transmission lines.

Can I build a building or other structure in the easement area?

Not without prior written approval from Great River Energy. Buildings and other structures are generally not permitted in rights of way. Crops, driveways, fences, parking lots and other such activities are permitted but must be reviewed by Great River Energy prior to construction. Again, we need to discuss projects with you to help avoid problems in the future.