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Right-of-Way Trimming

BARC ROW Maintenance

Right-of-Way clearing
Right-of-Way clearing

In the interest of public safety, the safety of line workers, and to help limit weather-related interruptions or outages, BARC Electric Cooperative regularly trims trees that could come into contact with power lines.

When a tree touches a power line the tree becomes energized and short circuits the power line to the ground. When this happens your lights will blink, maybe several times, and then may go out completely. Computers and digital clocks will have to be restarted or reset. Trees that are too close to the power line can be blown down by wind or knocked down by the weight of ice into the power line. If this happens the lines can be torn down and poles can be broken, resulting in prolonged, expensive outage repairs.

There is another good reason for trimming trees: public safety. If a tree is too close to a power line, then a child or pet climbing the tree could reach out and touch the wire.

We trim trees along primary transmission and distribution lines on an eight year cycle. We are granted permission to trim trees by both written and prescriptive easements.

The use of herbicide to prevent regrowth of woody plant species is an integral part of BARC’s right-of-way maintenance program. One or two years after the floor of the right-of-way has been cut, an herbicide mixture is applied using a low volume selective foliar method to prevent regrowth of woody plant species that could grow up into the power lines later. High volume herbicide application will only be used if the brush density is such that the selective method would be impractical. Only woody plant species that could grow to a height that would touch the power lines are targeted for herbicide. The selective low volume foliar application method allows grasses, low broad leaf plants, berry bushes, rhododendron, and other laurel species to remain.

Frequently asked questions about tree trimming:

Why does BARC Electric Cooperative have to trim trees?

Tree limbs and power lines aren’t a good combination – especially when severe weather hits. Trees are a common cause of service interruptions and outages, and a damaging storm can disrupt power for extended periods.

In addition, tree limbs and branches that extend into power lines pose a significant risk to public safety even during mild weather. Anyone climbing a tree with limbs and branches that may be intertwined with power lines can come into contact with the wires and be seriously injured.

How often do you trim trees?

Our crews, which include both BARC and contract workers, trim trees around our primary transmission and distribution lines on an eight year cycle.

What kind of pruning techniques do you use?

Our professionally trained crews use methods recommended by the International Society of Arboriculture.  If proper line clearance can be obtained for the next eight years without removing the tree, then the tree will be pruned.  Pruning methods vary depending on whether the tree is in a wooded setting or a residential setting.

How can you trim trees on my property without my permission?

We are granted permission to trim trees by both written and prescriptive easements under state law. Trees are a valuable resource environmentally, aesthetically, and economically. BARC is not interested in trimming beyond what is necessary for public safety, line worker safety, and reliability of electrical service.

How far do you cut back trees?

The amount of trimming depends on the type of tree, how close it is to the power lines, and the need to maintain clearance for eight years.  For example, a fast-growing tree like a willow or silver maple may be cut back more than a slow-growing tree such as a hickory. BARC’s standards are as follows:

  1. Planting of woody or tree species which may grow up into the energized wire is not permitted in the right-of-way.
  2. Right-of-way is trimmed and cut on an eight year cycle. Woody tree and brush species on the right-of-way floor are removed every eight years by hand cutting and/or brush hog. The following widths are “ground to sky”. A tree whose base is outside the below widths may still be removed completely if trimming would be so severe as to endanger the tree or if the tree is considered a “danger tree”.  A “danger tree” is a tree, dead or living,  that is outside the right-of-way width, is tall enough to pass closer than 10 feet to the power line if it fell, and is in the judgement of BARC’s inspector likely to fall due to wind, weather or other cause.
    1. Services: 3' wide
    2. Secondaries: 10' wide
    3. Single Phase: 30' wide
    4. 12.57 kV and 24.9 kV two or three phase: 40' wide
    5. 46 kV Transmission: 80' wide
  3. No woody vegetation (trees, brush species) is permitted to be planted in the right-of-way.
  4. Underground power lines have a 15 foot easement centered above the power line.
  5. No buildings, structures, or other obstructions (except fences) may be constructed on the designated right-of-way.


What if trees in my yard are growing into power lines?

Do not attempt to trim trees or vegetation that is near or growing ito power lines. Notify BARC Electric Cooperative of the situation by calling 800-846-2272. BARC's right-fo-way specialist will visit the site and make a determination of the course of action to be taken. Trees growing into or near high voltage lines are treated differently than trees growing into or near low-voltage secondary and service lines. BARC Electric Cooperative will not normally remove trees near low-voltage service lines going to a home or business. Trimming of trees and vegetation around low-voltage service lines coming into a home or business will be done according to the widths designated above.

What do you do with the brush and wood left over from right-of-way clearing operations?

Emergency power restoration:  Trees that have fallen and caused an outage or trees that are cut down to restore service are the landowner’s responsibility to remove. 

Normally scheduled ROW maintenance:  All wood is to be lapped and cut in lengths for convenient handling and loading and left on the right-of-way for the landowner.  All brush is to be removed from the right-of-way by wind rowing or, if the brush is chipped, it shall be removed or spread at the direction of the Owner.

Can I have the wood chips?

If you are interested in obtaining wood chips BARC can provide information for you to contact BARC’s contractor.  It is the customer’s responsibility to arrange for loading and transportation of chips.

Will BARC notify me before they come on to my property?

Yes, BARC has a program to notify landowners of scheduled right-of-way maintenance. One or more of the following methods will be used to notify landowners: advertisement in Cooperative Living magazine, advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation,  BARC’s web site, and spot radio advertisements. Several days before the crew arrives, the right-of-way crew leader is responsible for notifying landowners in person at the resident dwelling, or, finding no one at home, the crew leader is responsible for leaving a doorknob hanger notification.

What type of herbicides does BARC’s contractor use?

BARC’s contractor will generally use a mixture of herbicides consisting of one or more of the following:  Accord®, Escort®, Garlon®, or Krenite S®. The final selection of chemical and mix ratio is the responsibility of the contractor. BARC’s herbicide contractor is licensed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and applies all herbicides in strict conformance to the manufacturer’s instructions and environmental regulations.