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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Video: Tree trimmers keep trees healthy and system reliable

October 17, 2016 | Jason Kuiper | arboretum, trees, video
tree trimming

OPPD’s Arboretum near 108th and Blondo streets is a jewel in the heart of Omaha. It’s a popular spot for photographers, dog walkers and anyone looking to get some exercise in the beauty of nature.

But sometimes, the arboretum can use a little TLC beyond day-to-day maintenance. That’s where OPPD’s tree contractors – Wright Tree Service and Asplundh – come in.

refresher course

The two companies each spent a day this month at the arboretum doing tree removals and beautification work.

tree trimming

Typically, the companies are busy working on trees around OPPD’s 13-county service territory, working to trim back tree growth from power lines.

Trees that aren’t properly maintained can cause big headaches for the utility. When storms hit and cause widespread outages, it’s often due to branches coming into contact with or knocking down power lines.

To help maintain high reliability, OPPD does inspections and tree trimming on a rotating schedule throughout the district. But that work is usually making cuts on the trees to help ensure they stay healthy and clear of power lines.

tre_trim-training_climb-verticalFor two days in October, these workers get to work on their arboricultural skills.

Andy Clark, a utility forester at OPPD, said the crews “deadwood” trees (taking out dead branches), shape and perform directional pruning to some trees to improve their health and the aesthetics at the arboretum.

The contractors got to practice a part of their craft that they don’t always get to work on.

“A lot of people don’t understand the dangers trees can pose to power lines,” said Jordan Sutherland, a work planner at Wright. “I go out before we do the work and explain to the customer why the work has to be done. Everything we do is for the health of the tree and for the electric system. The work we do on the trees isn’t harming them.”

trimming for a reason

Sometimes homeowners think the cuts that are made will ruin their trees. Not so.

The trims done might not beautify the trees, said Bill McDowall, a general foreman with Wright, but they will keep the trees healthy and the electrical system reliable.

The trimming methods OPPD uses are the industry standard, said Chris Vrtiska, supervisor of Transmission & Distribution Maintenance Management.

safety first

The contractors also received safety training. Working around live power lines is dangerous enough, but when you add height and power lines running through leaves and branches, and the dangers multiply.

tree trimming

Like OPPD’s line crews, the tree workers often work in extreme weather conditions.

“We want to make sure these guys are going home safe to their families every night,” Clark said.

The arboretum is such a popular place, Clark said, there are “regulars” who come every day to enjoy nature.

“We even have a group of retirees who meet out here every morning for coffee,” Clark said.

tree trimmingSo it made sense for OPPD to invite Wright and Asplundh out for a day of work and training. Yearly training is something OPPD must also do to maintain its Tree Line USA status.

The companies are under long-term contracts for such work, something Clark said helps OPPD know they are getting good, quality work, and also helps the companies keep experienced workers.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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