SMUD celebrates California Arbor Week with tree safety
SMUD tree management practices deliver safety, sustainability, reliability and aesthetics
To celebrate California Arbor Week, SMUD reminds customers of the importance of tree and power line safety. Most importantly, SMUD urges everyone to never touch or try to remove a tree or a branch in or near a high-voltage power line because of the danger of severe shock or electrocution. Call the SMUD outage hotline at 1-888-456-7683 so the situation can be evaluated and handled safely and properly by SMUD personnel if necessary.
There are about 300,000 trees in the SMUD service area that are near SMUD high-voltage power lines and many more in close proximity to SMUD transmission lines outside the service territory. SMUD and its tree contractors conduct what is called vegetation management patrols, inspection and work to clear trees and branches close to or in danger of encroaching on SMUD electrical infrastructure.
This preventive public safety and reliability work happens daily, year-round and goes a very long way in keeping the public, employees and contractors safe. The work also minimizes outages in terms of size and duration, while improving safety and reliability for SMUD customers.
Every area in the service territory with overhead lines on poles is assessed at least every 36 months. Some trees grow faster than expected, so SMUD also performs a mid-cycle patrol at the 18-month mark ensuring all trees near lines are in compliance. Any potential situation that can cause an outage or safety issue is prioritized and addressed to ensure public safety and reliability. Palm fronds, for example, the fan-like branches that are often broken off during storms and then carried by the wind into power lines, are a primary concern. If they come into contact with energized power lines, they can cause an outage or damage the line and even burst into flames.
SMUD’s electric transmission system, which moves power at very high voltage (69,000 volts to as high as a 230,000 volts) traverses Sacramento County and El Dorado County in urbanized, as well as vast rural spaces and forested lands. The rights of way under those lines must be maintained to minimize public safety and wildfire risk potential and improve reliability. Many times utilities are forced to take these massive power pathways offline during summer wildfires, which creates a power squeeze on the state and regional grids.
SMUD’s comprehensive vegetation management program helped firefighters control the King Fire in 2014, which impacted 20 miles of SMUD’s transmission lines that move power generated at the Upper American River Project hydroelectric facilities in the Sierra. A key turning point in the battle came as SMUD’s transmission line rights of way that had already been managed using industry best practices. SMUD’s vegetation management program provided critical fire breaks for firefighters in eventually stopping the fire’s spread. CAL FIRE officials publicly acknowledged SMUD’s vegetation management program under its transmission corridor as critical factors in efforts to protect the small foothill towns of Camino, Pollock Pines, and Apple Hill from the catastrophic King Fire.
Trees are beautiful and provide excellent natural benefits including comfort and energy savings from the shading canopy, but their growth needs to be managed. The elected SMUD Board of Directors lists Environmental Stewardship as one of SMUD’s Core Values. SMUD’s “Do No Harm” edict coincides with public safety and electric reliability during California Arbor Week and always. In 2014, SMUD was recognized by the Right of Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC) for demonstrated excellence in managing the vegetation growth near the SMUD electrical system.
Be sure to visit smud.org to learn more about SMUD safety tips and environmental efforts as well as programs and services to help customers be safe and more environmentally conscious through energy efficiency.