Tree Trimming Info, Streetlights, Disconnect Requests

Trees are our number one cause of outages and approximately 90 percent of tree-related outages are caused by trees growing outside of the right-of-way Trees that grow too close to power lines can cause outages, start fires or create other hazardous conditions. Jefferson County PUD maintains a rigorous tree-maintenance program for trees along power line rights-of-way. Generally, we remove trees that pose a serious threat to safety and electric service. Not only does this work help maintain electric safety and service reliability, it is mandated by state and federal regulations (NESC Rules 012, 013, and 218; IEEE Standard 516-2003, Section; ANSI Z133.1; OSHA 1910; and WAC 296-45).

    • SUBJECT: Right-of-Way Utility Vegetation Management (UVM)

      OBJECTIVE: To state the policy regarding vegetation management


      This procedure has been developed to implement the guidelines for Rights of Way with regards to trees and vegetation. Trees in both rural and urban settings are a vital element of the quality of life. However, when tree limbs come in contact with power lines, it is dangerous and electric service can be impaired. As part of Jefferson County PUD (JPUD) obligation to provide safe, reliable electrical service to customers, this procedure is designed to keep tree limbs and shrubs safely away from power lines.


      JPUD is authorized by RCW 64.12.035 to trim or remove any tree or vegetation that poses an imminent hazard to the general public or is a potential threat that could damage electric facilities. PUD is responsible for trimming trees and vegetation around its energized power lines, utility poles and pad-mount transformers to obtain clearance.

      Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-45-045 states: All electric utilities and entities operating transmission and distribution facilities within the state of Washington must design, construct, operate, and maintain their lines and equipment according to the requirements of the 2017 National Electrical Safety Code (NESC). The employer must ensure that climbing spaces is provided on all poles and structures. The climbing space must meet the requirements of the 2017 National Electrical Safety Code.


      Trees are a major contributor of electric service interruptions nationwide. A power outage occurs when there is direct contact between two conducting lines (phase to phase) or by providing a path for electricity to travel to the ground. There are several ways that vegetation and trees can cause power outages.

      • First, left to grow without intervention, many tree species naturally grow or sway into power lines and provide direct paths for electricity to travel to the ground from energized lines.
      • Second, a power line can sag and sway under certain conditions, causing direct contact or a flashover that occurs when electricity arcs from an energized line to a near-by tree.
      • Third, snow and windstorms can break limbs or topple entire trees onto lines, poles, or other equipment.

      Regardless of the causes, power outages occur when the flow of electrical power is impeded by vegetation conflicts with energized wires.

      The National Electric Safety Code (NESC) Rule 218 is the most widely adopted and referenced set of guidelines for Utility Vegetation Management (UVM). The rule states: Trees that may damage ungrounded supply conductors should be pruned or removed. Note: Normal tree growth, the combined movement of trees and conductors under adverse weather conditions, voltage and sagging of conductors at elevated temperatures are among the factors to be considered in determining the extent of trimming required. Where trimming or removal is not practical, the conductor should be separated from the tree with suitable materials or devices to avoid conductor damage by abrasion and grounding of the circuit through the tree. At line crossings, railroad crossings, and limited-access highway crossings the crossing span and the adjoining span on each side of the crossing should be kept free from over-hanging or decayed trees or limbs that otherwise might fall into the line.

      JPUD follows the American National Standard Institutes A-300 performance standards for the care and maintenance of trees, shrubs and other woody plants. Tree pruning is done to provide adequate clearance from JPUD primary electric facilities. If practical, trimming methods will be based on procedures and examples set forth by ANSI A-300. As a general rule, trees should be pruned or removed to improve or re-establish the clearance provided from previously performed right of way maintenance.

      JPUD attempts to maintain a seven-year trim cycle at the expense of the District. The exact amount of clearance needed in a given area depends on the voltage of the line and type of line construction. Line sag during temperature extremes, as well as wind movement of power lines and tree species also must be taken into consideration. The following guides have been established for Transmission and Distribution line right of way clearing per PUD specifications following NESC rule 218,

      Generally, any limb within ten (10) feet of distribution electrical line conductor or fifteen (15) feet from transmission lines will be cut back. Because proper pruning techniques require cutting at certain points, branches will be cut at a main branching point, or at the trunk, leaving no stub. This may mean the branch is cut more than stated in our standards from the line conductor, but it helps preserve the health of the tree.

      Generally, any limb within fifteen (15) feet above the line will be removed. Certain main branches on older trees may remain inside the minimum clearance, but this depends on the health of the tree, direction of growth and likelihood of its limbs reaching the lines. Please review Appendix A Illustrations.

      Rural Utility Service Bulletin 1728F-803 states: The right-of-way shall be prepared by removing trees, clearing underbrush, and trimming trees so that the right-of-way is cleared close to the ground and to the width specified. However, low growing shrubs, which will not interfere with the operation or maintenance of the line, may be left undisturbed if so directed by the owner. Slash may be chipped and blown on the right-of-way is so specified. The landowner’s written permission shall be received prior to cutting trees outside of the right-of-way. Trees fronting each side of the right-of-way shall be trimmed symmetrically unless otherwise specified. Dead trees beyond the right-of-way which would strike the line in falling shall be removed. Leaning trees beyond the right-of-way which would strike the line in falling and which would require topping if not removed, shall either be removed or topped, except that shade, fruit, or ornamental trees shall be trimmed and not removed, unless otherwise authorized. Jefferson County PUD right-of-way easements for distribution is ten (10) feet wide. Jefferson County PUD transmission right-of-way is varied from forty (40) feet wide to one hundred eighty (180) feet wide.

      NESC 236 Climbing Space. Climbing space is an unobstructed, vertical space along the side or corner of the pole. In general, it consists of an imaginary box, 30-inches square, extending at least 40 inches above the highest communications cable or other facility and 40 inches below the lowest communication cable or other facility, but may be shifted from any side or corner to any other side or corner. Support arms are not considered to obstruct the climbing space.

      To provide a safe workplace for PUD personnel PUD requires a minimum of five (5) foot open space around each PUD owned utility pole. WAC 296-45-045 states: The employer must ensure that climbing space is provided on all poles and structures. The climbing space must meet the requirements of the 2017 National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) Please review Appendix B Illustrations.


      1. Customers should consider the mature canopy size of trees to be planted on their property. No tree shall be planted that will interfere with distribution or transmission lines when fully grown. Trees that will grow taller than fifteen (15) feet shall be planted at least ten (10) feet away from pole center for single phase distribution lines and twenty (20) feet away from pole center for multiphase distribution lines. If a customer’s tree is in violation of the required distance, the customer will receive a Tree Transplanting Notice- see Appendix C, from the PUD informing them of the violation allowing them to address the issue timely.
      2. Trees shall not be planted within forty (40) feet of pole center for transmission lines. Trees planted closer than this distance may be removed by the PUD.
      3. Customers and contractors should contact 811 to locate underground utilities to avoid personal harm and damage to the lines and interruption of electrical service when planting or moving trees. Customers and contractors will be responsible for paying repair costs for lines that are damaged due to digging.
      4. Customers shall not plant trees within ten (10) feet of underground cable. Necessary repair of underground lines could cause damage to trees planted near the cable. When planting around pad mount transformers or junction boxes, all vegetation shall be planted at least three (3) feet away from all sides and ten (10) feet away from the access panel. Please review Appendix D Illustration.
      5. Trees less than ten (10) feet in height growing near the overhead distribution or transmission may be moved or cut down by the customer to reduce potential safety and service hazards. A customer shall not risk his/her safety by cutting or moving trees taller than ten (10) feet located near primary power lines.


      1. The PUD is responsible for maintaining tree clearance only on primary power lines. Responsibility for tree clearance on customer secondary lines belongs to the customer. When the line belongs to the customer, hiring of a professional tree service is recommended to ensure customer safety and prevent damage to electric lines.
      2. Trees endangering PUD owned lines may be cut down or pruned by the PUD to eliminate any immediate hazard. Generally, trees less than 8” inches in diameter in rural, forested, and agricultural road right of way corridors will be removed with or without the consent of the property owner.
      3. The PUD will provide vegetation maintenance along primary lines (those between the substation and the service transformer) and PUD owned transmission lines. The appropriate vegetation management practices will be utilized at the discretion of the PUD’s Operations Director to achieve required line clearances until the next maintenance cycle. Trees and brush growing within the easement or right-of-way corridor outside of the home landscape will be removed by the PUD. Right-of-way corridors will be managed to the width of the Right of Way easement.

        Trees outside the right-of-way or easement corridor, which are dead, dying, structurally defective or otherwise pose a danger of falling on the lines (hazard trees) will also be removed.

        Landscape trees located within an established lawn area or are ornamental species growing within the home landscape on private property.

        Generally, the main trunk of landscape trees should be ten (10) feet or more from the vertical plane of the wires for distribution lines. Landscape trees will be pruned to provide clearance until the next scheduled maintenance cycle. The pruning distance will depend upon the species, cycle length and location of the tree. Landscape trees requiring repetitive pruning or those which are disfigured while achieving necessary clearance may be selected for removal with the property owner’s consent.

        To protect the public from electric injury, a minimum safety clearance from uninsulated conductors shall be obtained on all trees, regardless of location. A Safety Clearance Action Threshold has been established and is outlined in Appendix E. Safety clearance will be obtained with or without the property owner’s consent.

        Trees and brush growing in the right-of-way corridor will be cleared to width of the right-of-way. If there are mature trees growing within the landscape right-of-way corridor, they may be trimmed, at the PUD discretion, to prevent possible contact between the trees and conductor in the event of falling trees or line blowout created by wind.

      4. Stump removal will not be performed by the PUD.


      During maintenance cycle work all trimmings that can be reached will be chipped and removed by Jefferson County PUD. Trees larger than six (6) inches in diameter will be cut into eighteen (18) inch long logs and will remain on site. When tree trimming or removals are conducted because trees have caused a power outage or because trees have died and present a hazard, all debris will be left for disposal by the property owner.


      Customers are responsible for trimming trees around low voltage secondary service wires on the customers property. Customers must maintain a clear path to the electric meter so PUD employees may regularly access it as part of the customers service agreement. Please review Appendix F Illustrations.


      1. Jefferson County PUD uses no chemical applications to manage trees and brush within the right-of-way corridor.


      1. Typically, door-to-door contacts, letter mailed USPS, brochures, door hangars, phone messages, and/or electronic communications explaining policies and practices may be used to notify property owners of vegetation management work.
      2. No advance notice will be given prior to off-schedule work, including the removal of hazard or storm-damaged trees or power restoration activities.


      1. Hazard Trees- trees outside the right-of-way corridor, which are dead, dying, structurally defective or otherwise pose a danger of falling on the lines.
      2. Distribution Lines- a distribution line is as generic term for a distribution voltage (2,400 volts to 35,000 volts) line that carries power from a substation to a residence or business. These lines may be overhead or underground.
      3. Line Blowout- the distance a power line can be expected to swing during high wind.
      4. Primary Line – a power line that carries medium voltage power to distribution transformers located near the customers premises.
      5. Secondary Line- lower voltage lines from the distribution service transformer to the customer’s service (s). The lines may be overhead or underground and may include equipment such as pole-mount utility secondary connectors.
      6. Transmission Line- a bare, uninsulated, high voltage 69,000 volts to 345,000 volts overhead power line, usually strung from steel towers or tall wood, or metal poles, that carries power for power generation plants to substations.
      7. Right-of Way- Specific and particularly described strip of land, property, or interest therein devoted to and subject to the lawful use, typically for general transportation purposes of conveyance of utilities. A right-of-way can be public or private: it is to be assumed to pertain to both public and private unless it is specifically identified as one or the other.
      8. Easement: A prescriptive right of use over the land of another for a specific purpose providing a non-possessory interest in the property of the landowner and that prohibits the landowner from interfering with the easement holders use of the easement.
      9. Prescriptive Easement: An easement upon another real property acquired by continued use without permission of the owner for a period provided by state law to establish the easement.
      10. “NESC” National Electric Safety Code.


      Employees are responsible for understanding and complying with this policy.

      PUD representatives, or other qualified personnel, are responsible for communicating this policy to the customers.

      Supervisors are responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with this policy.

      The General Manager is responsible for the overall administration of this policy as it applies to employees.




    • We hire certified tree-trimmers to maintain a safe corridor around power lines. They work throughout the county on a multi-year schedule. They use natural pruning methods to maintain the health of the trees. Natural pruning, besides being healthier for the tree, also reduces re-sprouting in problem areas and limits the length of sprouts that do occur. The tree’s species, structure, and the strength of the wood are all considered when trees are pruned.

      Our contracting crew never use “round over” pruning because this method wounds the tree and causes it to grow unnaturally. In addition to pruning, trees not intentionally planted as part of the landscape (“natural re-prod”) that measure less than six inches in diameter at 4.5 feet high will be removed.

      Pruning clearances depend on tree species and growth patterns, as well as the voltage of power lines in close proximity. Around distribution lines, we provide at least 10 feet of clearance. Fast-growing species common to Jefferson County (ie, willow, alder, maple, and cottonwood) require 14 feet of clearance while slow-growing species (spruce, fir, and cedar) require at least 10 feet of clearance.

      If you’d like a tree pruned or removed for landscaping purposes, you’ll need to hire a private arborist or tree removal contractor to perform the work. If necessary, we can disconnect a service line for their workers’ safety.


    • Sometimes the best solution to tree and power line conflicts is tree removal. We work with neighborhoods to remove problem trees, particularly in cases where they require repeated pruning. Tree removal is especially important where pruning alone cannot achieve safe clearance from power lines.

      Along stretches of road where there are no houses, we remove problem trees from the public right-of-way. It saves our customers money to remove them rather than trim repeatedly. We would never remove yard trees without first talking with the homeowner, though we might trim them if we’re unable to reach the homeowner beforehand. We work with the wishes of our customers whenever we are able to without endangering our personnel or the reliability of the system.

    • Because our tree maintenance activities can have a profound effect on the appearance of trees, the value customers place on high-quality electric service will sometimes conflict with the value they place on trees in their community.

      Jefferson County PUD is obligated to keep lines clear to provide power to the community and our customers. We can, as an absolute last resort, pursue legal means.

      We do our best to notify property owners of work to be performed ahead of time. We do this as a courtesy. The PUD has rights to the property, which provides us access to maintain our power lines

    • The cost to install underground lines is $5000 to $10,000 per homeowner, minimum. Underground cable life is typically less than 20 years. Any time a cable fails, Jefferson County PUD would have to dig down and repair the faulted line. In addition, relocating overhead lines to underground cable often destroys a tree’s root system.

NOTE: Not all lines on power poles deliver power. Some are phone or cable lines that lease space. The PUD does not maintain these lines. Noting which type of lines are impacted by a tree or branch helps us gauge the priority of the response. You can upload photos from your phone. For more information on tree trimming, tree trouble, pruning, planting or any other tree and power line related issue email the PUD: or call (360) 385-5800.

PUD Vegetation Policy & Specs
PUD Tree Trimming Brochure