PSE saves power lines

ISSAQUAH—In the past several months, wind and rain storms have

left some Valley cities flooded and without power. Though it's hard to

dictate when and where the flood waters will go, Puget Sound Energy is working

at reducing a factor they can partially control — the amount of outages

in the area.

The company launched its $43 million Tree Watch program last

year. The program involves cooperation between the utility and the

community to keep trees away from overhead power lines. Since its initiation,

workers said they have seen about 30 percent fewer outages.

"We remove trees that are at risk of falling," said Beth Rogers,

PSE's reliability program manager. "We look for trees that look like they are

diseased or dying."

"These rotted trees decide that when it's time to break, it's time

to break," she added.

Rogers described the Tree Watch program as the "largest hazardous

tree removal" project in the United States, in large part due to the unusually

tall and fast-growing trees in Washington.

According to a 1997 study, more than half of tree-related power

outages were blamed on hazardous trees that grew outside of the normal

12-foot utility right-of-way. So, crews scan properties along the power line

corridor and tag potentially dangerous trees with a bright orange tie. Once the

trees are marked, PSE members approach the property owner and ask if the

tree could be taken down as a safety precaution.

If the owner agrees, contractors carefully topple the tree and treat

the stump to prohibit any re-growth. PSE then supplies the owner with a

landscape certificate encouraging the planting of power-line-friendly

vegetation instead.

The Valley has already been a recipient of the five-year project that

is expected to cover about 1,000 miles of power lines each year. Trees

along Southeast Mill Pond Road, Reinig Road and North Fork Road

in Snoqualmie were trimmed and removed within the past nine months.

Rogers said there is more to come.

"Over the next four years the Snoqualmie Valley will be a

target area," she commented, adding the project is being fully funded by

the company, so customers won't pay anything for this additional service.

PSE predicts that the money it saves from sending emergency crews to

downed power lines will easily cover the Tree Watch project.

For more information about PSE's Tree Watch program, call

1-888-225-5773, select option 4 and enter the Tree Watch six-digit extension, 895148.

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