Trees & Vegetation
VELCO is responsible for maintaining the integrity and reliability of more than 700 miles of high voltage electric transmission lines, which includes managing vegetation on 13,000 acres of right-of-way. These transmission rights-of-way extend throughout the State of Vermont and portions of New Hampshire. We maintain our corridors according to our Transmission Vegetation Management Plan (TVMP) and other rules and regulations. These frameworks balance: protection of the environment; the interests and safety of neighbors, occupants, workers, and users of the land; the need to maintain a reliable transmission system; and control of vegetation management costs over the long term. Our vegetation management program follows a four-year cycle.
Our vegetation management program is officially accredited as a Right-of-Way Steward for sustainable integrated vegetation management. VELCO is recognized with the Right-of-Way Steward Founder's Award for leadership in receiving one of the first two Right of Way Stewardship Council's accreditations globally.
Tree Care & Vegetation Management
Keeping transmission lines safe from contact with trees and branches is one of the most important ways we meet the strict reliability standards imposed on all transmission operators. Vermont is about 90% forested, so providing reliable service in an efficient manner, while minimizing the environmental impact, is no simple endeavor. To accomplish this, we work with property owners to try to improve reliability and overall tree health. In this section, we provide information on what we do with trees, how we do it, and how you can enjoy your trees and help us protect you and your neighbors from power outages.
Our professional utility foresters work hard to keep your lights on and costs down, and to be good stewards of the environment. Our goals are simple:
- Maintain a focus on vegetation management, selectively remove incompatible plant species, and maintain healthy compatible plants species along the edge of our rights-of-way (ROW).
- Maintain a selective herbicide application program to promote compatible low-growing vegetation, reduce future stem density of tall-growing species, and increase plant biodiversity.
- Continue to research new technologies and techniques that minimize environmental impacts and reduce long-term cost.
We use trained vegetation management contractors to perform work. Crews are taught the latest vegetation management techniques to maintain healthy trees. The work our tree contractors do is monitored by ISA Certified Utility Arborists. A contract tree crew may contact you before beginning work. In some cases, if we do not know who owns parcels of land, we will perform work without notification if we have a right-of-way. If you have any questions about our schedules and practices, here is how you can Contact Us.
Landowners may request notification, through the process prescribed in Public Utilities Commission Rule 3.6, Maintenance of electric utility rights of way, prior to herbicide use.
Protecting Vermont's forests: Emerald Ash Borer Program
The Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species destroying ash trees around the country, is infesting our ash trees in Vermont. Working with the State of Vermont and our partners, VELCO began our Emerald Ash Borer Program to mitigate the impact and protect Vermont’s transmission system for reliability and safety.
We are using lessons learned from our peers around the country and proactively removing both infested and not-yet-infested ash trees from our right-of-ways. Our foresters are contacting landowners with ash trees along our right-of-ways to discuss our strategies and treatment options. If you would like ash trees on your property evaluated, please contact Vermont Invasives.
Information about the Emerald Ash Borer is available here as well as resources for homeowners and municipalities.
Transmission lines deliver electricity from generating stations to substations or substation to substation. A transmission right-of-way is the strip of land we obtained by easement or acquired in fee to install, maintain, replace, and remove lines and related equipment. Along with the rights for line construction, the ROW allows us maintain access to the poles and wires and manage vegetation to ensure electric reliability.
Easements secured for these ROWs may also include the right to remove what are known as “danger trees.” A danger tree is a tree outside of the defined limits of the ROW corridor, but with the potential to do damage to transmission lines or other equipment within the ROW.
Transmission ROWs are often 100 feet wide or wider, with lines normally centered in the corridor, but sometimes offset to one side. Depending on width, line location, topography, type of vegetation and other factors, the ROW may not be cleared to its full width at all times.
Vegetation and power lines
Trees come in lots of sizes and shapes, grow at different rates, and thrive under different conditions. When growing near streets, sidewalks, power lines and buildings, the wrong kind of tree in the wrong place can cause expensive and dangerous problems. Such situations can be avoided by thinking ahead about how tall a small sapling will be when it matures. Planning ahead can also help assure your long-term enjoyment of healthy trees. When choosing and planting a tree, please consider the following:
- Size restrictions: Estimate the maximum height and spread tolerable. Don't forget utility wires and pipes above and below ground. Roots can spread as far as a tree is tall.
- Light: Sunny, shady or intermediate? Some plants are shade-tolerant; others need all-day sun. Flowering and brilliant fall colors both depend on adequate sunlight.
- Soils: Wet, dry, or well drained? Most New England soils are acidic, perfect for evergreens and other kinds of plants. When in doubt, have your soil tested by the Cooperative Extension Service.
Want to plant trees or shrubs and not have to worry about too much interaction with the power lines? The following plant species are hardy enough to grow in our region, and are compatible with utility lines:
- American Arborvitae
- American Cranberrybush Viburnum
- Arrowwood Viburnum
- Nannyberry Viburnum
- Wayfaring Tree Viburnum
- Bob White Crabapple
- Harvest Gold Crabapple
- Donald Wyman Crabapple
- Indian Summer Crabapple
- Prairiefire Crabappple
- Professor Sprenger Crabapple
- Red Barron Crabapple
- Red Jade Crabapple
- Redbud Crabapple
- Snowdrift Crabapple
- Spring Snow Crabapple
- Redosier Dogwood
- Nanking Cherry
- Purpleleaf Sand Cherry
- Canada Red Chokecherry
- Red Chokeberry
- Tatarian Dogwood
- Gray Dogwood
- Pagoda Dogwood
- American Wild Plum
- Amur Maackia
- Border Forsythia
- Cockspur Hawthorn
- Japanese Tree Lilac
- Mugo Pine
- Panicle Hydrangea
- Pussy Willow
- Witch Hazel
For more information, visit the Vermont Division of Forestry’s tree selection tool
Here are some resources to help you make the right choice for planting near power lines: