For Immediate Release: June 3, 2020

SMUD clearing trees and brush near high-voltage lines in advance of fire season

Vegetation management crews clearing 2 acres daily in El Dorado County

SMUD vegetation management crews are busy clearing large areas of trees with high fuel loads and elevated fire risk in the Sierra foothills under and near high-voltage transmission lines. With the 2020 fire season approaching, tree and brush work is essential to SMUD’s efforts to mitigate wildfire danger during the hot summer months.

Crews working in the Rescue area east of El Dorado Hills are conducting the latest in planned vegetation management work in El Dorado County that’s been going on for several years. SMUD owns rights-of-way in its transmission line corridors that span forested areas all the way to Loon Lake in the Crystal Basin area.

SMUD contract tree pruning workers clear high-fuel vegetation and brush under and near high-voltage transmission lines in Rescue, El Dorado County. The work is being done in advance of fire season to ensure safe and reliable power delivery.

The transmission lines move electricity from SMUD’s hydroelectric plants in the Upper American River Project (UARP), which produce about 700 megawatts of electricity or about 20 percent of SMUD’s customer demand. This carbon-free resource is especially valuable in the hot summer months when air conditioning load in SMUD’s service territory can push demand to near peak levels

Though SMUD doesn’t serve El Dorado County, the community-owned electric company works directly with property owners to plan the work, which in some cases crosses private property near homes and businesses including orchards and vineyards. In many cases, property owners request the removal of trees and brush on their properties as wildfire danger has become considerably more threatening in recent years.

“Managing this vegetation near our transmission lines that feed the SMUD grid is critical to keeping our system reliable,” said SMUD Chief Energy Delivery Officer Frankie McDermott. “This exhaustive planning and work execution also go a long way in mitigating potential wildfire danger.

In fact, SMUD’s comprehensive approach to vegetation management using industry best practices has delivered life- and property-saving results. The work aided firefighters in gaining control of the King Fire in 2014, which impacted SMUD’s transmission lines near Camino. A key turning point came as SMUD’s already-managed transmission line rights-of-way provided critical fire breaks for firefighters to stop the fire’s spread. CAL FIRE officials even publicly acknowledged SMUD’s vegetation management programs as critical factors in protecting the foothill communities of Camino, Pollock Pines and Apple Hill from the catastrophic King Fire.

The result is clearances that help mitigate the possibility of wildfire near homes and businesses
SMUD patrols these lines annually, by truck, on foot and by helicopter. To identify trees proven to be historically associated with causing power outages. SMUD uses Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology and a helicopter to efficiently and strategically pinpoint those trees for pruning or removal that are within defined clearance limits of SMUD’s power poles, towers and lines. LiDAR measures distance to a target by illuminating it with an FAA-approved pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulse—like SONAR but with light instead of sound—producing digital 3D pictures of the target. The imaging technology is even capable of identifying chlorophyll, which makes plants green and is an accurate measurement of plant health, which is utilized to identify potential hazards from weak, dying or dead trees, the result of recent drought years.

SMUD also manages trees and brush below and near clearances in the neighborhoods with overhead lines in the SMUD service territory at least every 36 months. Some trees grow faster, and any potential situation that can cause an outage or safety issue is prioritized and addressed to ensure public safety and reliability. anaged in an environmentally friendly way.

The elected SMUD Board of Directors makes Environmental Stewardship a Core Value. SMUD’s “Do No Harm” edict coincides with public safety and electric reliability. SMUD has also been recognized by the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC) for demonstrated excellence in managing the vegetation growth near the SMUD electrical system.

Remember, during this time of heightened concern over COVID-19, if you see our field personnel out,
please greet them from afar with a thumbs up or a wave.