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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Energy Adviser: Know which trees work with power lines


Trees bring both immeasurable and quantifiable value to the homeowners who plant them as well, as the whole neighborhood — people and critters alike.

The lush greenery and colorful blooms enhance curb appeal, reduce noise pollution, and offer cooling shade. Plus, trees help improve air quality and offer habitat for local birds, pollinators and wildlife.

What’s better, trees planted in the right locations around a home can help lower energy expenses. Deciduous trees can serve as windbreaks and shade the home from the summer sun before dropping their leaves in winter, allowing the sun’s warming rays to shine free heat on the home.

Despite the many advantages, trees can be a headache. Planting the wrong variety in the wrong place can mean unexpected maintenance or property damage in just a few years.

“Trees can grow surprisingly fast, and it doesn’t take long for them to grow into overhead utility lines, loom dangerously over home structures, wrap around buried utilities and even infiltrate water and sewer lines,” said Clark Public Utilities Forestry Maintenance Manager Paul Wienecke.

Those can all become expensive problems to address and are just a few reasons why homeowners who do their homework ahead of time rarely regret it. To start, take time to understand your property’s space, soil type, and proximity to critical infrastructure. Then consider what kind of growth and structural characteristics would fit best within those parameters.

Trees come in all shapes and sizes, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a long list of potential candidates that would make a welcome addition to your landscape.

“Generally, trees that mature to 25 feet or less fit well in a smaller yard and are safe to plant near overhead power lines,” Wienecke said. “Plant nurseries have made it easier on homeowners to quickly identify these varieties by tagging them with the TreeSmart logo.”

Clark Public Utilities also keeps a helpful list of 56 recommended tree varieties at www.clarkpublicutilities.com/treeplanting.

Sometimes, a mature tree already established on the property could use a trim. While it seems pretty straightforward to hack here and nip there, it’s best to leave the work to a professional. Improper pruning can harm the tree’s health and cause aggressive, brittle regrowth—not to mention it’s often not great looking.

“Plus, it’s very easy to injure yourself or damage your property,” Wienecke said. “A falling limb can easily knock a person out of a tree or kick the ladder out from under them. Or, they can land in the wrong place and go crashing through the home, patio, vehicle, or worse.”

“At the utility, we see a springtime spike in reports of DIYers nearly electrocuting themselves when trimming near power lines,” he added. “Any trimming near power lines or other electric equipment should only be done under the supervision of an ISA Certified Arborist.”

Customers 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.

Before planting a tree or digging holes around the property, call 811 two business days before the start of your project. Free of charge, one call to 811 will send all utilities out to identify underground electric equipment on your site, marking them with color-coded water-soluble paint. However, they will not locate personal water or sewer lines.

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.