For Immediate Release: March 6, 2020

SMUD’s diligent tree safety efforts align with California Arbor Week

Tree management delivers safety, sustainability and reliability

Besides their beauty, trees provide excellent natural benefits including comfort and energy savings from the shade, 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.Foremost, 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.

The SMUD service area has about 300,000 trees that are adjacent to SMUD high-voltage power lines and many thousands more in the area of SMUD transmission lines in El Dorado County. SMUD conducts regular vegetation management patrols, inspection and work to clear trees and branches in nearby proximity to SMUD electrical infrastructure, pruning or removing about 70,000 trees adjacent to power lines annually.

This preventive public safety and reliability work goes a very long way in keeping the public, employees and contractors safe, and 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 like lasers and high-definition photography as well as historical data to identify challenges. Any potential situation that can cause an outage or safety issue is prioritized to ensure public safety and reliability.

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 and vast rural spaces and forested lands. The rights of way under and adjacent to those lines must be maintained to minimize threats to public safety and wildfire risk potential and improve reliability. SMUD and many utilities may sometimes need to take these massive power pathways offline during summer wildfires, which can create a power squeeze on the state and regional  SMUD’s diligent tree safety efforts align with California Arbor Week grids, and can result in power curtailments. 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.

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. 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.

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.