KINGSPORT - American Electric Power spends about $1 million annually trimming trees in the Model City, all in an effort to prevent tree limbs from coming into contact with the power lines.
AEP contracts with Asplundh Tree Expert Co. of Bluff City to trim the trees around power lines throughout the year. Asplundh has recently been working along Fort Henry Drive, and a local resident was concerned about some trees being completely cut down.
Issac Webb, district manager for AEP, explained that the power company has easements for every power pole placed granting the company the right to trim the trees in order to keep the limbs away from the power lines.
"Trees conduct electricity, and most of the power lines that run down the side of the road are energized either at 7,200 volts or 20,000 volts, depending on which neighborhood you live in," Webb said. "If a tree contacts the primary line, it will cause the power to go out. When we have a big storm roll through, the overwhelming majority of the power outages we have are as a result of a tree contact."
Webb said AEP spends about $1 million a year in Kingsport trimming trees, trying to keep the power lines completely clear of trees. In order to prevent limbs from coming in contact with the power lines, Webb said Asplundh has been directed to trim the trees 20 feet back from the lines.
"We always go and seek permission from the landowners before we trim the trees, and we try to work with landowners however we can to discuss what our intentions are before we start the work," Webb said. "Folks are in a real habit of doing something like planting a white pine tree or maple tree right directly underneath the power line. Those kinds of trees are incompatible with overhead power lines, and over time you'll end up having to cut them in a manner that just doesn't look very nice at all."
And as for the trees being cut down completely, Webb said this is done when a fast-growing and tall-growing tree is planted directly underneath a power line.
"We will remove those trees, grind the stumps, and replace those trees with a compatible species. We have a program that does that, but we only have so much money to do that in a particular year," Webb said. "This has happened in every city I've ever lived in. It's not attractive, but power lines are a part of life."
Webb said AEP encourages people, when planting trees, to be aware of the species, how tall the tree will get, how much the tree will spread out, and then plant the tree in a manner where its growth will not interfere with the power line.
And if a power line is running through a tree, Webb said people need to stay out of the tree completely.
"I've attended accident scenes where children have been killed climbing the trees and people shocked trying to trim them," Webb said. "It's very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."