It is finally springtime in Fairbanks and for Golden Valley Electric Association that means that our right-of-way (ROW) crews are back to work in the field!
GVEA works to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric service to our members, and right-of-way clearing is just one of the ways we execute our mission. Maintaining a clear right-of-way is a critical component in providing safe and reliable electricity. When combined with other proactive measures we take throughout the year, this program ensures uninterrupted service for our members, significantly reducing both the amount and the duration of outages.
GVEA Objectives for Clearing:
- To prevent vegetation from contacting our lines. GVEA maintains more than 3,000 miles of power lines and it is a priority to prevent trees and vegetation from falling into or growing into our lines. ROW crews will be working throughout the spring, summer and fall to clear all of the right-of-way easements that are scheduled for 2023 maintenance.
- To maintain access for maintenance and repair. When there is an outage, a clear ROW allows our lineworkers fast and easy access to make necessary repairs.
- To keep lines of sight clear. During an outage, before crews can begin making repairs, we first need to identify where issues are taking place. Keeping our ROWs clear makes it quick and easy to visually identify problems.
The safety of our members and employees is our No. 1 priority at GVEA. If your area is scheduled to have ROWs cleared this season—you can check our website—there are some important steps you can take to ensure a safe season for all.
- Please stay at least 300 feet away from clearing machines. These machines can throw debris a significant distance which can cause serious injury or property damage.
- Do not stop to watch the equipment.
- Slow down and follow all warning signs. Signs may read “Brush Cutting Ahead” or “Tree Work Ahead.”
- Do not enter the work area of a bucket truck or tree workers. The risk of injury or death from falling trees or branches is serious.
- Cutting trees is dangerous. Every month, people are killed or suffer serious injuries from attempting to cut and prune trees. Please consider hiring a trained expert if you have a tree that needs to be removed from your property.
- Access – Fences, sheds, vehicles, plants and other member property that is close to electrical equipment presents a safety hazard to GVEA employees, can create longer restoration times and could potentially impede clearing of easements. It is important for members to keep ROW easements clear of personal property.
- Weather – The extreme weather in Interior Alaska presents challenges not seen in many other areas in the United States. This leads to unique challenges for our ROW crews and a shortened season where vegetation management and clearing is possible.
- Vegetation health and growth – Alaska’s short summers with long daylight cause rapid growth for much of the vegetation. ROW clearing is evaluated regularly to meet the unique environmental needs of Interior Alaska.
ROWs are Private Property
Power line rights-of-way are granted to GVEA by our members. The property within the rights-of-way remains private and is not there to provide public access routes.
- Therefore, keep this information in mind before you consider trespassing:
- No legal public thoroughfare is created by the installation of a power line.
- Landowners retain all rights of ownership.
- Property owners can have trespassers prosecuted.
Even though rights-of-way are private property, GVEA must retain access for regular maintenance of ROW clearing and our equipment.
Planting? Some Things to Consider
Large trees growing near power lines have the potential to disrupt service to you and the community and can pose safety hazards. Planting large trees away from power lines helps ensure more reliable electric service and greater public safety. Large trees growing near power lines often require pruning or removal to avoid electrical hazards.
When performing landscaping, proper selection of tree species to plant near power lines will reduce hazards and the need for expensive, unsightly pruning or removal.
- Within 15 feet of power poles and lines: Do not plant trees or shrubs in this area. This area is needed for equipment access along the right-ofway. GVEA recommends planting grasses, annuals and herbaceous perennials instead.
- 15 to 20 feet from power poles: Plant small trees and shrubs that reach no more than 20 feet in height at maturity.
- 20 feet or more from power poles: Plant medium-sized trees in this area that reach no more than 40 feet at maturity. Remember to consider the crown, as well as the height.
Right-of-Way (ROW) Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if a tree falls into a power line?
If a tree is in the power line, call GVEA immediately. Stay out from under the lines. The lines could be damaged and fall to the ground. Do not go near the tree or touch it. Remember that trees conduct electricity.
Are property owners responsible for maintaining tree clearances within the power line easement?
No. GVEA has an active right-of-way maintenance program. Our crews clear trees and brush and cut limbs away from electrical conductors.
What is cleared and how much will be cleared?
Most ROW easements are 30 feet wide. GVEA normally cuts all brush to the ground so there is ground to sky clearance for our crews in the field.
Will GVEA leave brush and logs behind?
GVEA will remove the brush. We usually leave logs behind. Most homeowners request that the logs are left behind for firewood.
What is a hazard tree?
Hazard trees are trees with severe defects which may cause the tree to fall and damage lines. Hazard trees include dead trees; trees with decayed trunks or root systems; severely leaning or overhanging trees; and trees that have a high potential to fall when carrying a heavy snow load. GVEA has certified tree-risk assessors who evaluate hazardous trees to determine the potential for danger. If you have a hazard tree, fill out a Hazard Tree form on our website or call (907) 451-5692.
What kind of equipment does GVEA use?
You will see us clearing with machines as well as hand clearing. Mechanical clearing is done with a Kershaw brush mower, a BobCat forestry mower and a Sky Trim. The mowers cut and mulch. The Sky Trim, which has a 75-foot boom with a rotating saw blade, cuts tree branches growing toward the power lines. Remember to stay at least 300 feet away from all equipment used in clearing as it can throw wood and debris a great distance.
Will you clear around my electrical service drop?
Service drops are the lines that connect your house or business to GVEA’s high-voltage lines. Since the service drop is owned by the homeowner, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain it. The service drop should be kept clear of trees and brush. GVEA can disconnect service for you in instances where it makes the felling of trees both safer and easier. There is no charge for this service during business hours, but we do ask for at least 5 days notice.
How will I be notified of ROW clearing in my area?
GVEA attempts to notify residents well in advance of clearing season using multiple platforms. If clearing is happening in your area in 2023, you will receive an informational postcard and an automated phone call. Even if we will not be clearing in your area, we may need to access our work area through your right-of-way. Members are usually notified by mail of work being done in their area. This gives you the opportunity to contact us before the work begins.
To make sure that you are receiving important notifications from GVEA, you can verify or update your contact information by calling member services at (907) 452-1151, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information about rights-of-ways you can reach GVEA’s Right-Of-Way Maintenance Department at (907) 458-5717.
GVEA will be posting on social media throughout the clearing season. You can follow GVEA on Facebook.