Monday, June 27, 2022
June 27, 2022

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Energy Adviser: Add trees to landscape with care

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It’s the time of year when many homeowners put their shovels to work and add a little color to their yards — often starting with a new tree.

Trees are great additions to a landscape. They enhance a property’s curb appeal, improve air quality and offer habitat for local wildlife. When planted in the right location, trees can work to your advantage. They can protect your home from strong winds and provide cooling shade on hot days. After the leaves fall off in autumn, they allow the sun’s rays to shine through and help warm your home.

But when they’re planted in the wrong location, trees can become a big problem.

“It can be hard to understand just how big some trees can get — especially when they’re under 6 feet tall on the day you get them in the ground,” Clark Public Utilities Forestry Maintenance Manager Paul Wienecke said. “By planting the right type of tree in the right place now people can save themselves, their neighbors and future homeowners a lot of trouble down the road.”

Some trees can easily outgrow a yard or reach up into overhead power lines. When that happens, they can cause outages or become electrocution hazards for the public and the utility crews who may have to service them. Certain species grow aggressive root systems that can break water and sewer lines or mangle buried utilities.

But all of that can be avoided with a little planning and careful selection. Trees come in all shapes and sizes and finding the right fit for your property should be pretty easy — whether you live in a new subdivision or on a farm.

Before getting started, make a note of your property’s unique conditions then do some research about what types of trees will be a good fit. Local nurseries are knowledgeable and often offer good selections. If you’d rather know before you go, there are many helpful online resources to learn from. Clark Public Utilities also keeps a helpful list of 56 recommended tree varieties at www.clarkpublicutilities.com/treeplanting.

In general, trees that grow to 25 feet or less when fully mature are safe to plant near overhead power lines. Nursery trees tagged with the TreeSmart logo will help inform customers about selecting the right variety.

Before planting, protect yourself from injury or liability with a quick call to 811. Crews will identify all local utilities, but they won’t locate your personal waterline or sewer lines.

When it comes time for trimming, it’s best to leave the work to a professional. Not only does improper pruning look bad, but it can drive the tree to produce brittle new growth or leave it vulnerable to disease.

“Trimming seems easy enough for the average person, but there’s a lot to it — especially when it comes to safety,” Wienecke said. “A falling limb can easily knock a ladder out from under you, fall on your home or vehicle. If you’re working near power lines, it’s extremely easy to get electrocuted. It’s best to leave it to the pros and call an ISA certified arborist.”

Customers who are concerned that a tree could affect power lines should call the utility’s customer service line at 360-992-3000. The representative will ask a series of questions and triage the request, sending out tree trimmers if needed. Customers can also report the tree at ClarkPublicUtilities.com.


Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.

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