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Trees and Rights of Way

We trim trees and manage our rights of way to protect the safety of our customers and our employees, and to keep your electric service among the most reliable in the industry. We also work with our customers to ensure authorized use within our rights of way that do not interfere with the operation, maintenance and construction of power lines. With more than 80,000 miles of line to maintain across 44,500 square miles, it is a continual responsibility. Learn more about rights of way and how we maintain or clear areas around poles, wires and structures. 

How Trees Cause Outages

There are more outages caused by trees or tree limbs falling on power lines and power poles than by the weather alone. Trees also give wildlife, such as squirrels, easy access to our power lines. Squirrels and other animals on the lines are a common source of outages.

Trees that interfere or that threaten to interfere with power lines not only cause outages, they can also create a potentially hazardous situation that can lead to injury or death. Tree maintenance helps reduce this hazard and the number of “blinks” customers may sometimes experience .

Power Line Pole

Tree Trimming FAQs

Why are you cutting down my trees?

Trees can disrupt power in a number of ways. For example, trees can grow into the electrical equipment or fall across power lines, causing outages.    

To provide reliable service, we must prune or remove trees along the power lines. These practices are approved by internationally recognized tree care associations and are referred to as Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM).

An IVM program evaluates vegetation and determines the best methods for maintenance and tree removal to ensure reliable service. Our program’s objective is to minimize tree-related power outages in a manner that is consistent with good arboricultural practices.

What is Integrated Vegetation Management

Integrated vegetation management (IVM) is a process that balances the use of mechanical, chemical, cultural and biological treatments to establish and maintain a vegetative cover type that is compatible with the environment.

Through the IVM process, we balance the needs and safety of our customers as well as costs to provide reliable electric service. 

What happens when trees come into contact with power lines?

Under certain conditions, trees and tree limbs can conduct power if they come in contact with power lines. If you see a fallen tree in contact with a power line, immediately contact Alabama Power. No one should climb trees that are in the vicinity of power lines. Serious injury or death may result from climbing a tree and making direct contact with or coming too close to an energized line.

If trees or tree limbs fall and tear down power lines, the downed power lines may still be energized while in the air or on the ground. If you see a downed line, always assume it is energized and stay away. Never touch or try to drive over a downed power line. If you see a downed line, immediately contact Alabama Power.

Alabama Power schedules periodic vegetation maintenance along power lines to minimize outages caused by trees in or near transmission and distribution rights of way. We also depend on help from the public. When people identify downed lines or trees touching power lines and act wisely, it minimizes the risk from trees contacting power lines.

Will I be notified before a tree crew come to cut trees in my yard?

We trim or cut trees only where we have a legal right to do so and only where we believe it is necessary. Our employees who manage our tree-service contractors, along with the supervisors of our contractors, are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. In other words, they are trained to know the proper techniques for trimming trees.

Typically, before work begins in a neighborhood, a representative for Alabama Power will knock on doors and leave notices at homes where trees need trimming. A representative is also available to discuss tree-trimming guidelines with customers.

How often does Alabama Power trim or cut trees?

Alabama Power trims trees to provide reliable service to our customers. Planned maintenance is prioritized by evaluating reliability data, field conditions and other specific information. There are instances when a tree must be trimmed or removed outside of planned maintenance.  

Who should trim or cut trees around power lines?

Only line clearance qualified personnel should perform tree work around or adjacent to power lines and electrical equipment. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals have done this work without the assistance of qualified professionals. Please contact us to request a representative to make evaluations of your request.

Is Alabama Power responsible for cleanup after trimming trees or weather events?

Much of our pruning and cutting occurs during planned maintenance. In maintained or landscape settings, our practice is to dispose of any small limbs and brush. The larger pieces of wood are cut, but not necessarily in firewood lengths. In non-landscaped sites, pruned vegetation and wood are left in place to biodegrade.

When a severe weather situation or other natural events cause trees or other vegetation to fall across power lines and damage facilities, we cut the trees and brush, so poles and lines can be replaced and re-energized. Disposal of any wood, limbs or debris resulting from this type of emergency operation is the responsibility of the property owner.

Does Alabama Power use herbicides to control vegetation in rights of way?

Alabama Power uses environmentally responsible non-restricted herbicide applications to control tall-growing incompatible plants within power line rights of way. Our objective is to promote low-growing vegetation to minimize potential electric power interruptions, which also enhances wildlife habitat. We use professional crews to apply non-restricted herbicides by utilizing different methods including foliar, stump, stem, and vine applications. Alabama Power crews have been trained on the proper, safe, and environmentally responsible techniques of managing plant growth. All products used by Alabama Power are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency and approved by appropriate state agencies.   

Can I replace a tree that has been cut down?

Absolutely. Before you plant a tree or shrub, please make sure the location is out of the right of way and refer to our “How do I know what to plant?” brochure. Do not forget to call 811 before you dig.

Can I trim trees myself?

Occasionally, a property owner will make the decision to conduct trimming or removals on their own or hire a third party. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by qualified professionals. Serious injuries, and even fatalities, have occurred when unqualified individuals perform this type of work without the assistance of qualified professionals. As stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) standards and ANSI Z133, an unqualified person shall not work within 10 feet of overhead power lines with voltages below 50,000 volts. The distance increases with voltage for all voltages equal to or higher than 50,000 volts.

What gives Alabama Power the right of way?

An easement is defined as “a legal interest in real property that grants the right to use in some specified manner the property of another.” Easements, also called rights of way, give Alabama Power Company the right to use another landowner’s property to construct, operate, and maintain transmission facilities such as towers, poles, lines, guys, anchors, and all communication lines necessary or convenient in connection therewith. Easements also contain language specifying rights such as ingress/egress, which give Alabama Power Company the right to enter and leave from the transmission line rights of way. Most easements are perpetual in duration. As such, when a property is sold and conveyed to another owner, the easements remain in effect and are binding to the new owner. 

My property has an electric transmission line easement on it. Can I still use it?

Transmission line easements give Alabama Power Company the right to limit, and at times, require the removal of an encroachment at the owner’s expense from transmission line right-of-way. It is best to contact your local Alabama Power Right of Way Specialist to discuss the compatible uses of the electric transmission line right-of-way.

I have noticed an electric transmission line on a job that I am working on. What should I do?

Alabama Power Company considers safety a preeminent concern. Many times, during a construction or development project, you will notice high voltage transmission lines on the property. Please notify your local Alabama Power Right of Way Specialist to review the proposed encroachment and required documentation.    

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Outages and Storm Center

Safety is our first priority. Our Storm Center coordinates our storm readiness efforts, as well as crews from sister companies within Southern Company and neighboring utilities, to make sure we get your lights back on as quickly as possible.

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