Overview of MEC’s ROW Management Program

The goal of Mountain Electric Cooperative is to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric service to all its members. An important part of keeping electricity reliable is maintaining transmission and distribution line rights-of-way (ROW). Tree contacts with distribution lines are the co-ops #1 cause of service interruptions and have the largest impact on service reliability. The control and/or removal of undesirable vegetation, primarily trees, in and along the co-op’s ROW represent a major cost and challenge to the co-op.
While the safe, reliable and affordable supply of energy to our members is first and foremost, MEC also has a responsibility to the environment and NC/TN countryside, and desires to maintain its ROW in an environmentally responsible manner. Vegetation along ROW is more than just aesthetically important; it houses wildlife and plant species important for the local habitat. A desirable ROW maintenance program will maintain or improve the standard habitat quality for wildlife.

MEC has opted for an integrated, long-term approach to vegetation management based on Quality Vegetation Management (QVM) practices, which includes both mechanical and chemical control methods. The goal is to provide more effective, targeted vegetation control, restoring and improving plant, animal and human habitat, and strengthening relationships with customers and communities by reducing the need for long term maintenance activity which generally is perceived (either mechanical or herbicide) negatively.

MEC’s right-of-way maintenance is performed by both in-house staff and contractors using a variety of methods. Mechanical methods include pruning, felling and hand clearing. Chemical controls involve the use of herbicides, which are used to control woody vegetation that reseeds or re-sprouts after mowing. Without herbicide applications, these sprouts grow quickly and require repetitive mowing. Over time, the use of herbicides results in the growth of favorable low-growing, non-woody plants, such as grasses and other native plants. These new plant communities do not interfere with power lines and the reliable flow of electricity to our customers. In addition, they provide a natural habitat that benefits many kinds of wildlife. As a result, there is a reduced need for future mowing and herbicide applications.


ROW Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What methods does MEC used to maintain its rights-of-way?

A. MEC has opted for an integrated, long-term approach to vegetation management based on Quality Vegetation Management (QVM) practices, which includes both mechanical and chemical control methods. Mechanical methods include pruning, felling and hand clearing. Chemical controls involve the use of herbicides, which are used to control woody vegetation that reseeds or re-sprouts after mowing.

Q. Why is ROW maintenance important?

A. We do it to improve power reliability.Tree contacts with distribution lines are the co-ops #1 cause of service interruptions and have the largest impact on service reliability. The control and/or removal of undesirable vegetation, primarily trees, in and along the co-op’s ROW represent a major cost and challenge to the co-op.

Q. Why aren't more lines underground?

A. Costs. Burying lines is about five times more expensive than placing them overhead. However, many new developments are burying lines underground.

Q. Can MEC legally trim trees?

A. As part of your membership agreement and cooperative rules and regulations, MEC has the right to enter customer's premises to remove trees or other obstructions that may endanger the proper maintenance and operation of co-ops facilities; to trim or remove dead, diseased, weak or leaning trees or limbs outside of the right of way strip that might interfere with or fall upon the co-op's facilities. Courts in Tennessee and North Carolina clearly support a public utility's right to trim and remove trees, both within and outside of the right-of-way.

Q. How are trees trimmed?

A. Our number one goal is to keep trees healthy while making sure they don’t interfere with power lines. We follow Pruning techniques that in accordance with established, sound horticultural principles. These principles include natural or lateral pruning, drop crotching, and directional pruning. Branches or limbs, which must be removed, are to be pruned back to a supporting branch or to the trunk of the tree whenever possible. These techniques keep the overall structure of the tree strong and more resistant to high winds and heavy ice. Future growth is directed away from power lines. MEC no longer "round over" trees except for shade and lawn trees, that have been "rounded over" in past pruning procedures and where absolutely necessary to satisfy the tree owner, because it creates an unhealthy, weak sucker attachment at the pruned end of the branch. Re-growth is usually very rapid and the unsightly appearance promotes undesirable public attention.

High voltage distributions lines (7.2kV/12.4kV) are cleared a width of 40 feet, 20 feet on each side of a centerline determined by the centerline of the distribution line. Trees outside the 20 feet limit will be side trimmed, unless dead or leaning heavily toward line.

Danger trees (dead, dying, diseased, washed out) in or along the right-of-way, which also present reasonable risks to the Cooperative's lines and facilities, shall be removed or pruned to the extent that the hazard is removed.

Minimum allowed tree clearances:

1. Aerial Primary Lines (7.2kV/12.4kV): Minimum tree trimming clearances between primary phase conductor and trees or limbs are as follows: This applies to shade and lawn trees, towns, and subdivisions or as directed by the Cooperative.

  • Top Clearance 8 feet 10 feet (fast growing species)
  • Side Clearance 8 feet 10 feet (fast growing species)
  • Overhang Clearance 10 feet 12 feet (fast growing species) (Remove if possible)
  • Example of fast growers: poplar, soft maple, elm, sycamore, willow, and pine
  • Example of slow growers: oak, hard maple, cedar, fruit trees, and hickory

2. Open wire secondary (less than 600V) will be free of tree contacts with a minimum clearance of five (5) feet. Other secondary and service drops shall be pruned to remove any obvious line-damaging limbs. These are limbs of a size substantial enough that through continued rubbing, or pressure due to weight, will likely lead to service interruptions.

Q. Will I be notified of ROW maintenance in my neighborhood?

A. A ROW worker will attempt to contact property owner before starting work. This is accomplished by knocking on the door at the property residence or phoning property owner. When unable to contact the property owner, ROW workers will proceed with ROW maintenance per MEC standard ROW maintenance. For information about upcoming ROW maintenance work, you may call your local office for information.

Q. Who cleans up the debris after tree trimming?

A. MEC will remove Brush and logs from municipal limits as required, lawns, cleared subdivisions, cultivated fields, fences, cleared pastures, creek banks, and private driveways. MEC will remove debris from "clean and maintained" areas; that is, an area which is regularly maintained free of brush and logs. Brush and logs shall be piled out of sight on rights-of-way within 50 feet of houses and buildings, and public areas. In developed areas where brush and logs cannot be piled out of sight, brush and logs will be removed. MEC does not remove stumps. Brush and logs may be left in the right of way that does not fit the above categories. Brush and logs may be left as cut in remote areas.

Q. Where should I plant trees to avoid future problems?

A. Trees grow to varying heights. Before planting, visualize the height and spread of a mature tree in relation to nearby power lines. Also, for your safety, don’t plant trees or large shrubs within 10 feet of a utility pole.

Mature Tree Height Distance from Power Lines
25 feet or less 10 feet
25 feet to 50 feet 35 feet
50 feet or more 45 feet

ROW Spraying (back to top)

Q. When are herbicides used?

A. MEC’s herbicide treatment is generally used in an area one to three years after cutting to prevent re-sprouting and promote low-growing desirable vegetation.

Q. Why are herbicides used?

A. This program restructures the ROW by reducing or removing woody vegetation and replaces these with competing low-growing desirable vegetation. The “desirable” vegetation is a variety of grasses, wildflowers, forbs, vines, mosses, ferns, mushrooms and woody shrubs. This diversity of vegetation promotes wildlife population by:

  • a) providing wildlife food sources and
  • b) providing nesting sites and protection from predators (wildlife habitat) for countless species of wildlife (including butterflies, songbirds, turkeys, mice, rabbits and white-tailed deer). ROW along power line become habitat corridors for wildlife.

This provides longer term control on unwanted brush and trees and lengths the time between treatments up to 3 years and longer. The reduction of equipment on the site reduces the risk of environmental damage and reduces erosion caused by heavy equipment (chipper, bucket truck). The reduced future need for both mechanical and herbicide applications also reduces long-term ROW maintenance cost.

It should be noted that herbicide treatment is superior over repeated mowing or mechanical cutting, which takes down “good” plants (and associated wildlife habitat) along with the undesirable vegetation. After cutting, brush will re-sprout into many more stems that were originally cut, actually causing brush to become even denser until it shades and crowds out desirable plants. The use of herbicides has been shown to be safer than mechanical clearing, because even when crews use care with aerial bucket, chippers and chainsaws, occasional accidents occur. Mechanical means are also noisy; leaves sharp pointed stubbles, produce noxious exhaust and can lead to oil and gas spills. MEC’s program is environmentally friendly and much more environmentally friendly than only using mechanical means. Having to continually come back and re-cut or mow is harmful to the animals and destroys their habitat. Krenite and Arsenal do not damage valuable under-story and wildlife habitat.

Q. How are herbicides applied?

A. MEC use backpack sprayers to apply low-volume herbicide to only targeted vegetation (foliage of undesirable spices). This is highly efficient and minimizes overspray contamination of non-target areas. This type of application minimizes the amount of chemical placed into the environment. The herbicides used (Krenite and Arsenal) are very safe and environmentally friendly and are non-restricted herbicides that any homeowner can purchase and apply to their yard without a license.

Q. What herbicides does MEC use?

A. MEC use backpack sprayers to apply low-volume herbicide to only targeted vegetation (foliage of undesirable spices). The herbicide solution (and associated EPA Registration No.) is as follows:

3.8% - Rodeo Herbicide (EPA 62719-324) 0.25% - Aqufact (EPA Surfactant)
0.5% - Arsenal Herbicide (EPA 214-3460) 95.45% - Water

MEC also applies herbicide directly into the target tree using a hatchet and squirt bottle. This method is best for sensitive sites where desirable trees can be left standing without competition and minimizes overspray contamination of non-target species. Rodeo and Arsenal is used for this application. The herbicide solution (and associated EPA Registration No.) is as follows:

38.5% - Rodeo (EPA 62719-324) 0.25% - Aqufact (EPA Surfactant)
9.4% - Arsenal (EPA 241-346) 51.85% - Water

Q. Which contractor applies herbicide treatment?

A. Superior Forestry Service, Inc. (SFS) has been contracted by MEC to perform herbicide treatment. All of SFS workers are supervised and professionally trained. SFS is a Quality Vegetation Management (QVM) Certified Applicator that follows a defined set of principles and practices designed to improve plant and animal habitats. SFS is certified by BASF the manufacturer of Arsenal PowerLine and is also recognized by DOW Chemical and DuPont as a professional Applicator. SF has been awarded the “Environmental Stewardship Award” by DuPont for excellence in application.

Q. Can I restrict herbicide treatment on my property?

A. The Cooperative has the legal right to maintain its rights-of-way (ROW) per its rules and regulation that apply to all members. This includes mechanical and herbicide treatment methods. However, to accommodate members who have strong concerns regarding chemical treatment, a member may select an alternative to chemical treatment by listing their property for non-chemical maintenance methods. This is a non-standard treatment and increases the overall cost of MEC’s ROW maintenance program. To ensure that the increased costs is not subsidized by other members, the additional cost for the non-standard ROW treatment will be charged to the individual customer desiring the non-standard treatment. Customers requiring their property to be listed on the “No Spray” list must submit their request on a special MEC application/agreement form. If interest, please contact your local office for details.

Corporate Office District Office Branch Office
Mountain City
604 South Church St
PO Box 180
Mountain City, TN 37683
423/727-1800
fax: 423-727-1822
Newland
1373 Elk Park Hwy
PO Box 1240
Newland, NC 28657

828/733-0159
fax: 828-733-3213
Roan Mountain
8477 Hwy 19E
PO Box 103
Roan Mountain, TN 37687
423/772-3521
fax: 423-772-4340