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Maintaining Right of Way

Article was added on Thursday, July 08, 2010

Santee Electric Cooperative maintains right-of-way along about 5,500 miles of power lines in Florence, Clarendon, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties to insure service reliability. Trees that grow into electric lines will cause outages and endanger crews as well as the general public.

In the past SEC has used the cutting approach to this issue on a rotating basis of mechanical cutting one half of the system each year. Cutting down trees, bushhogging and using chain saws to clear corridors beneath power lines causes the underbrush to sprout out new, thicker growth and produce new saplings, causing more work to cut the area each time. The battle is never-ending.

This year, SEC began spraying an environmentally safe herbicide, Accord, similar to Roundup, to try and more effectively combat this problem. While the dead brush may not be very attractive right now, it is extremely important to leave the plants in place to allow the chemicals to penetrate the root systems and cut down on the need for additional labor in the future.

The chemical has a "plant specific" mode of action, which means the active ingredient is absorbed into the leaves, travels to the root system, and interrupts the tree's ability to process amino acids. The tree, and a good portion of the root system, is eliminated, thus eventually eliminating the repetitive cycle of cutting and regrowth of trees under power lines.

Other than the occasional new sapling, the use of the herbicide then becomes less and less needed with each cycle.

When SEC considered a herbicide program, we set high standards. We found that a right-of-way spraying program is considered more effective and safer for the environment when compared to bushhogs and chains saws. SEC also chose to use a low volume approach rather than a general spraying method. This means individuals walked the lines with backpacks and hand held wands spraying individual plants rather than larger wide area spraying that would have affected more plants.

SEC abides by all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Why is this program considered environmentally friendly?

  • Accord works with a plant's system but is not metabolized by humans and other mammals.
  • Accord is safe for birds, fish, and honeybees.
  • Accord can be used to battle non-native water plants that can invade and overrun fishponds, lakes, and sensitive coastal wetlands.
  • Unlike petroleum products, Accord will not leach into groundwater. Any spray that does fall to the ground bonds to the upper layer of soil, and stays there until it becomes inert.
  • The low growing plants establish a permanent wildlife habitat which is created in the rights-of-way. This new habitat will be especially suitable for quail, wild turkey, and other ground-nesting birds.

Not only is the use of herbicides more effective in maintaining the area, it is a best practice in the electric utilities industry with significant cost savings.

Because keeping the lights on is our primary goal, we are clearing the trees that could grow into overhead power lines that deliver electricity to you and your neighbors because they are the greatest threat to reliable electric service.

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