CoServ keeps trees trimmed to improve reliability

By Nicholas Sakelaris | CoServ

A row of hackberry trees grows like a towering, natural border off Texas 114 in Rhome. To the west, there’s an open pasture with a natural gas well linked by a gravel road. To the east, there’s the Shale Creek neighborhood with hundreds of homes.

Hanging above the hackberry branches are the CoServ power lines that deliver electricity to our Members, including the natural gas infrastructure and the nearby homes.

One day, the power goes out.

One of the possible causes for the outage is the trees, which grow naturally under the power lines after their seeds are deposited in droppings from the birds that sit on the wires. 

Morgan Herd, CoServ’s Vegetation Management Coordinator, came out to inspect the hackberry trees and discovered many of the branches had grown close to the wires since they were last trimmed three and a half years ago.

“That’s what my job is all about, preventing outages. Trees do cause power outages plus they hide a lot of other things that cause power outages,” Morgan said. “You can’t see the insulators at the top and sometimes you can’t even see the wire. We had a recent power outage in the area. We’re going to trim it and if it goes off again it will make it easier to find [the cause].”

Vegetation management is just another way that CoServ goes the extra mile to increase the reliability of our system. CoServ contracts with two companies that specialize in trimming trees near power lines. Between the two, CoServ usually has a dozen crews working throughout the service territory at any given time.

In early July, Morgan oversaw a crew from Apex Line Clearance as they trimmed the hackberry trees. One worker ascends in a bucket truck, similar to the ones CoServ uses, except he’s equipped with a chainsaw. He expertly angles the cuts on the branches to discourage the trees from growing back toward the lines. He cuts all the branches within 10 feet of the lines, as required by federal regulations.

“It keeps the tree out of our line longer and it’s healthier for the tree,” Morgan said.

On the ground, two other workers haul the fallen branches to the shredder.

CoServ typically trims an area every four years but Morgan said recent increases in rainfall have him advocating for a three-year cycle. He cites examples like the one in Rhome as why CoServ is reviewing this process.

How many feet from the side of a transformer can you plant shrubs?

Just as blocking a fire hydrant is a safety violation, anything that obstructs access to a transformer creates a similar hazard. Avoid planting within 5-feet of the sides and back and 10-feet of the front of a transformer (the side with the decals and lock). This will allow CoServ crews to safely service this equipment when needed.

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