Reclaiming Right-of-Way to Improve Safety and Reliability

Posted: December 1, 2018

Habersham EMC (HEMC) began enforcing the existing right-of-way maintenance policy earlier this year. This initiative, described as ground-to-sky clearing, will take approximately five years to complete. Trees within HEMC’s easement (15 feet on either side of the line) will be cut as close to the ground as possible, regardless of size, height or species. Underbrush and other vegetation will also be cleared.

This is a recent ground-to-sky clearing conducted by HEMC.

“Once the right-of-way throughout our system has been reclaimed, we intend to do a better job of maintaining it,” says Brad Hicks, HEMC CEO/President. “It will benefit our members by improving safety, reducing outage times and expenses.”

“Any vegetation that comes in contact with, or even close to, an overhead line offers an alternative path for electrical currents and can result in electrocution,” says Hicks. “Annually, many children and adults are electrocuted or seriously injured due to accidental contact with power lines. Some of these instances are children climbing trees that are too close to the lines and adults working on trees too near the lines.”

Vegetation in the right-of-way can also create obstacles and jeopardize the safety of HEMC employees.

“By properly managing the right-of-way, we have a greater opportunity to restore power more quickly following an outage, which means less interruption in our members’ daily lives. It also potentially reduces the cleanup and restoration-related costs following storms,” adds Hicks.

In 2017, according to Hicks, 67 percent of all outages within Habersham EMC’s service area were caused by trees, shrubs, bushes and vines that had grown too close to the electric lines. In October 2018, when winds from Tropical Storm Michael affected our area, all of those outages were vegetation-related. However, none occurred along the circuits that had been cleared before the storm.

“These system reliability improvements are driven by feedback from our members demanding more reliable service and less outages,” says Hicks. “Vegetation management is absolutely necessary where people, trees and utilities coexist. This improved right-of-way initiative has been communicated many times since July 2017 and through various channels, including Habersham EMC’s website, social media, GEORGIA Magazine, local media outlets and the 2017 and 2018 Annual Reports, as well as my speech at the 2018 Annual Meeting.

“We are trying to improve the safety of the general public and our employees as well as improve the reliability of the electric service,” emphasizes Hicks. “Our members deserve safe, reliable electric service.”

For more information about safe planting practices and the continued right-of-way initiative, visit Right of Way Maintenance or the HEMC offices in Clarkesville and Cleveland.