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GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Miss. (WCBI) – A tree branch here, a creeper vine there, growing things must be kept away from power lines. If not, you can expect outages, damages or even injuries.

In order to keep TVA’s power flowing, trees must be kept a safe distance from power lines.

“They are able to conduct electricity across an air gap. So we don’t want any vegetation on the right of way that could actually get in and violate that space,” says John Dooley, TVA manager.

TVA transmission line rights of way can be anywhere from 75 to 200 feet wide. A helicopter helps crews spot potential problems.

Higher voltage lines require wider rights of way. In 2003 a single tree is believed to have caused a costly blackout in the northeast United States and Canada.

“Out of that we’ve had some regulatory guidelines and some changes in our industry that have required us to stiffen up and enhance our program out there for the right of way. And so we’re doing a lot more widening of our rights of way,” says Dooley.

“There specification to us is that it has to be perfection. There is no tree in the, no tree can be on the lines. And so having that zero tolerance, you know we have to have a program that supports that,” adds Dooley.

Vegetation is constantly growing. TVA’s mission never ends. Heading off problems before they happen saves money and keeps the lights on.

“The whole point and reason that we do this is so that we have safe reliable cost effective power throughout the Valley and that’s what we are out there to do.  So thats the reason we are out there doing the work on the rights of way,” says Dooley.

According to TVA statistics, each year in the United States, power outages cause an estimated $80 billion in damages.

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