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American Society of Landscape Architects


June 2007 Issue

Landscape Design and High-Voltage Power Lines
Designers can avert conflict between trees and power lines.

By Chuck Zinky and Bob Bell

Landscape Design and High-Voltage Power Lines Mike Tan

Utility wires. Arboriculture. If you think these terms donít go together, think again. Utility arboriculture is a branch of urban forestry dedicated to managing vegetation in and around utility corridors: utility vegetation management (UVM). This covers everything from the old oak tree growing in a backyard to a tree-lined streetscape to the golf course pines adjacent to a 500,000-volt grid-critical transmission line.

In any given community two things are likely to be true: The local utility company spends more on tree care than anyone else in town, and trees contacting power lines is one of the top three causes of power interruptions. The Great American Blackout of 2003, which affected 50 million customers and had an estimated economic impact of $10 to $15 billion, was precipitated by a tree contacting a transmission line in Ohio. Each year, utility companies and their contractors prune tens of millions of trees. North American utilities spend $2 to $3 billion each year pruning and removing unwanted vegetation from the vicinity of high-voltage lines.

Another unfortunate fact: Significant dollars and good landscape designs are spent installing doomed or soon to be misshaped trees beneath high-voltage power lines. How can this be avoided?

…To read the entire article, subscribe to LAM!

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