Managing Vegetation with Vegetation
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. VELCO’s Vegetation Management team is responsible for managing about 13,000 acres of transmission rights-of-way across Vermont and parts of New Hampshire. We view our rights-of-way as an asset, not only for safe and reliable transmission of electricity, but for the value these lands provide to wildlife and people.
Our management strategy is to encourage the growth of plant species that are compatible with transmission lines, which in turn suppress the germination and growth of tall trees. In a phrase, we aim to manage vegetation with vegetation.
Transmission Vegetation Management Practices
VELCO's Transmission Vegetation Management Plan (TVMP) documents our processes, procedures, and specifications we use to prevent encroachments of vegetation into the right of way.
Let us help you pick the right tree for the right place. Check our compatibility list here.
Utility Vegetation Management encompasses a variety of activities that remove unwanted and hazardous vegetation from infrastructure. For VELCO, that means we maintain plants in a manner compatible with transmission lines, substations, fences, and any other assets that would be in conflict with certain kinds and amounts of vegetation. VELCO uses Integrated Vegetation Management in our rights-of-way.
Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) is a system of managing plant communities in which compatible and incompatible vegetation are identified; action thresholds are determined; tolerance levels are established; and control methods are evaluated, selected, and applied to achieve management goal and maintenance objectives.
Integrated vegetation management uses a variety of controls and often integrates multiple methods to promote sustainable plant communities that are compatible with management goals. Incompatible vegetation compromises program goals, negatively impacting or causing concerns regarding safety, security, access, fire risk, utility service reliability, wildlife habitat, pollinator forage, emergency restoration, visibility, line-of-sight requirements, regulatory compliance, the environment, and much more. Integrated vegetation management is not a set of inflexible prescriptions, such as repeated mowing or broadcast spraying across entire areas on rigid schedules. Rather, it is a long-term process tailored to the species being managed, existing site conditions, and intended outcomes. (American National Standards Institute ANSI A300 Part 7).
VELCO has a 4-year vegetation management cycle. This means that we perform tree work and maintenance every four years. We patrol lines annually, and perform our Vegetation Inventory the year before work is completed. Our team of arborists make an effort to contact every landowner either by phone or in person prior to work being completed.
The short answer is no, you do not need permission to plant trees or shrubs. However, to ensure the long-term growth of the plant, please select species listed in our Compatible Vegetation list if you are planting within the right-of-way easement. Each easement provides VELCO the right to maintain vegetation for reliability, and you don’t want to risk a landscape tree being cut down.
Please contact VELCO if you have any concern about cutting trees near the transmission lines on your property. A VELCO representative may meet with you and arrange removal by a qualified utility arborist. Generally, short-statured trees may be cut without issue (i.e. balsam fir Christmas trees less than 12-feet tall).” Remember, VELCO rights-of-way are easements on private property. Always acquire permission from the landowner prior to accessing private property.
VELCO manages vegetation through a variety methods (mechanical, manual, chemical). Our treatments are chosen based on vegetation conditions, landowner restrictions, environmental concerns, and terrain. For more information see [insert link to Veg management page].
VELCO will maintain its rights of way in the manner that most appropriately balances the following:
- avoiding unreasonable risk of harm to the environment, workers, neighbors, occupants, and users of the land on which or adjacent to which its rights of way lie
- promoting the reliability of the VELCO transmission system
- minimizing expenses over the long term
The overall strategy is implementing the vegetation management technique that best meets the goals and objectives of the Transmission Vegetation Management Plan.
VELCO employs a variety of methods to accomplish these goals.
Manual methods of vegetation control include the use of chainsaws and brush saws. They are frequently used in areas where chemical methods are restricted and where non-chemical alternatives are favored.
Mechanical methods of vegetation control include mowing of brush with tracked excavator mowers or similar equipment. Mowing is a chosen treatment option when vegetation is very thick, where chemical methods are restricted, and non-chemical alternatives are favored.
The biological method of vegetation management VELCO employs is slow conversion and maintenance of stable low-growing vegetation communities. This is typically obtained through multiple cycles of chemical control of incompatible plants. Plant communities become resistant to the germination and growth of trees if they are densely packed with low-growing herbaceous plants and shrubs.
A cultural method for managing right of way vegetation is to convert the area to a compatible use. This can include pasture, certain types of agriculture, lawns, and generally any land use that maintains plants to a low height. VELCO will work with landowners on appropriate right of way uses (link to Right-of-Way Use Request).
VELCO utilizes selective applications of herbicides to control incompatible vegetation. The application method is selected depending on site characteristics such as stem densities, environmental concerns, aesthetic concerns, and landowner preferences. VELCO currently employs the following methods:
- Ultra Low Volume Foliar Application
- Low Volume Basal Application
- Cut Stump application methods
Each method listed above is applied on the ground by licensed applicators. VELCO does NOT apply any herbicide or other chemical aerially (via helicopters or other device).
Our practice is to leave trees where they fall. Limbs and brush is diced to lay as flat on the ground as possible.
VELCO uses LiDAR to determine tree height and risk to the transmission line. Each tree tall enough to fall and reach the conductors is evaluated by a qualified arborist for risk. Trees that lean toward the lines, have structural defects, disease, or other risk factors are typically those slated for removal. VELCO has also been removing healthy ash trees in anticipation of their infestation by emerald ash borer.
Since 2018, VELCO has been removing healthy ash trees along the right of way in anticipation of their infestation by emerald ash borer. By preemptively removing the trees while they are healthy, we are reducing the risk to our dedicated tree crews.
The VELCO Vegetation Management team attempts to notify all adjacent right-of-way landowners of vegetation maintenance activities ahead of time by phone, email, or in person. Our work cycle is based on calendar years, so typically landowners will hear from one of our arborists in the winter preceding work. In addition to our regular notifications, VELCO notifies the public of herbicide applications. As part of our herbicide permit through the State of Vermont Department of Agriculture, VELCO must notify the public of herbicide applications through newspaper articles, radio ads, and letters (if requested by individuals). Herbicide notifications go out in the winter and spring prior to applications in the summer. If you wish to add yourself to our herbicide notification list, you may do so by contacting email@example.com
VELCO is sensitive to the environmental impacts of invasive and noxious weeds across Vermont and beyond. Our environmental team follows Best Management Practices during and after construction projects to monitor for new invasions of noxious weeds like purple loosestrife, japanese knotweed, etc. See the VEGM for more details.
During VELCO's regular vegetation maintenance activities, we are not always able to manage invasive plant species. Some of our limitations include: 1) strict regulations of our use of herbicides prohibit our ability to use them in many places, 2) because we only enter a site once every 4 years, we do not achieve effective control, and 3) many infestations go far beyond the right-of-way edge, impacting the effectiveness of our treatments. However, we work with landowners who are actively engaged in their own invasive plant removal efforts. You are welcome to discuss options with a VELCO representative.
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