Manager’s Message – May 2022

Vegetation Management Considerations

I know people who planted trees in memory of loved ones who died. Some plant trees and landscape after the birth of a family member or to honor cherished former pets.

In nearly all cases when someone dedicates time, money, and energy to plant a tree, an emotional investment accompanies that effort and binds the planter with the plant.

These attachments are good for the soul and the environment.

I am thankful for the trees on our property and look back with pride on the many my family has planted, including more than 300 in a series of windows.

With all the inherent good we receive from having trees in our lives, they also pose significant challenges beyond pruning, and combating pine beetles, blight, and fallen twigs on the lawn.

Wasco Electric Cooperative has a relationship with trees and vegetation that we can never escape.

One of the most consistent causes of power outages across the nation is trees. They create difficult situations. On one hand, we recognize and respect the connection most landowners have with their trees. On the other hand, we must relentlessly trim and remove trees that will create outages if left unattended.

This challenge can be overwhelming, especially during and after major storms such as those we had in December, January, and last month.

One reality we face is that healthy trees outside of a right-of-way can have limbs or treetops that break and travel hundreds of feet in high winds and cause electrical failures.

How in the world can we prevent every one of these from affecting our membership? We cannot.

No matter how devoted to vegetation management we are, we can’t prevent every tree/power line contact. Strong trees growing outside rights-of-way can be blown over into power lines and break under the weight of snow loads. Unless all trees are removed for hundreds of feet from either side of power lines, utilities will have trees contacting power lines. It is impossible to avoid all contacts.

Conversations about how the broad swaths of treeless hillsides look surrounding transmission lines in our otherwise forested areas frequently include people describing the sight as an ugly bald spot. I don’t like them either, but I propose that hundreds—or, in many cases recently across the United States, thousands—of charred acres are a much more alarming sight.

Our goals in vegetation management include maintaining safe electric service and preventing ignition sources for fires. This is a difficult task.

WEC asks that you help by working with our crews to allow for the most thorough and beneficial trimming and removal of potentially problematic trees to minimize interruptions and ignition potentials. When planting sentimental leafy additions to your private ecosystem, please locate them at least 50 feet from power lines.

We hope you understand our ongoing efforts at vegetation management. We strive to balance the many complex considerations involved.

Thank you,

General Manager Ned Ratterman