For Immediate Release: March 4, 2019

Celebrate California Arbor Week with tree safety

Tree management delivers safety, sustainability and reliability

Trees are beautiful and provide excellent natural benefits including comfort and energy savings from the shading canopy, but their growth needs to be managed. To celebrate California Arbor Week, March 7 through 14, SMUD is reminding 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 adjacent to SMUD high-voltage power lines and many more in the area of  SMUD transmission lines in El Dorado County. SMUD and its tree contractors conduct vegetation management patrols, inspection and work to clear trees and branches in nearby proximity to SMUD electrical infrastructure. SMUD works on about 70,000 trees adjacent to power lines annually.

This preventive public safety and reliability work is carried out 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 uses technology and historical data to address these types of situations. Any potential situation that can cause an outage or safety issue is prioritized and addressed to ensure public safety and reliability. Palm fronds are a good example. Their fan-like branches can break off during storms and fly into power lines, which can cause an outage or damage the line and even burst into flames.

SMUD’s electric transmission system moves power at very high voltage (69,000 volts to as high as 230,000 volts) and traverses Sacramento County and El Dorado County in suburban, as well as vast rural spaces and forested lands. The rights of way under those lines must be maintained to minimize threats to public safety and wildfire risk potential and improve reliability. Many times utilities like SMUD are forced to take these massive power pathways offline during summer wildfires, which creates a power squeeze on the state and regional grids and can result in power curtailments and even rotating power outages. Shutting off the power, while the last resort, is the safest approach and makes sense if the risk of a wildfire starting and spreading is severe.

Back in 2014, SMUD’s comprehensive vegetation management program helped firefighters control the King Fire, which impacted 20 miles of SMUD’s transmission lines that deliver 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.

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. Since 2014, SMUD has annually been recognized by the Right of Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC) for demonstrated excellence in managing the vegetation growth near the SMUD electrical system.

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.