The Importance of Maintaining the Power Line Right of Way

The Importance of Maintaining the Power Line Right of Way 

Eastern Maine Electric’s linemen work hard, long hours when outages happen, restoring power in some of Maine’s harshest weather conditions. The length of those outages, however, depends as much on planning and preparation as it does the linemen’s battles during the storms themselves.
The preparation never stops, and a key aspect of that work involves clearing and trimming trees and branches that may endanger the lines.

All electric utilities must trim and clear trees, but for Eastern Maine Electric, right-of-way maintenance is a bigger challenge than it is for most. This Cooperative serves the most rural delivery territory in the country’s most tree-shaded state. 

At the same time, Maine’s beautiful and abundant trees are part of what draws people to Maine.  Eastern Maine Electric has these considerations in mind when maintaining the right of way.

What is power line “right of way?”

For electric utilities, “right of way” refers to a specified width of land under and surrounding the power lines and poles. It is the legal path of the lines. The path widths vary from thirty feet to 150 feet depending on the type of overhead line.
Trimming and Clearing

The most labor-intensive right of way maintenance is clearing and trimming, which is performed with the help of bucket trucks, track machines, chippers, chain saws, and excavator tree mowers.  The Co-op contracts out much of this work.

Trimming and clearing efforts focus on trees close to or directly beneath the lines. Tall evergreens and hardwoods are cleared, unless they are in cultivated yards, where they are trimmed only as much as necessary to protect the power lines. 

In many areas, trees and shrubs are cleared to the ground. Even low growing bushes and cultivated plants are often cleared, because they will limit access by vehicles to the right of way.  

Selective Use of Herbicides

In some areas, it is necessary to use herbicides to prevent rapid regrowth of trees. Ultimately, clearing work is intended to last seven to ten years. Hardwood shoots that spring from stumps, however, can grow fast enough to interfere with the lines in five years or less.
Treating the stumps of cleared trees with herbicides will prevent this rapid regrowth, which will increase the time between clearing cycles, thereby lowering expenses. 

The Cooperative uses only Maine-licensed contractors, and the herbicides used are approved for these purposes by state and federal regulators.
Objective measures of toxicity indicate that the impact on animals from herbicide spraying is minimal.  Sprays used by EMEC contractors have less impact on animals than the gasoline engines of the chain saws and motorized equipment used to do the trimming and clearing. In fact, the herbicides most commonly used have lower toxicity rates to animals than aspirin.

Right of Way Consultation

The Co-op maintains its rights of way in order to provide the most reliable service to our consumers.  A regular program of trimming, clearing, and spraying are required, but EMEC is committed to maintaining service quality, while keeping in mind the beauty that makes Eastern Maine so memorable.

Eastern Maine Electric has a responsibility to maintain the power line right of way, which may involve trimming, clearing, and spraying the ground under and around lines. Even so, we do not want to affect any property more than is necessary.
This is especially true where cleaning must be done on land bordering landscaped property. We therefore welcome your input.

If you would like to be consulted before trimming is done on or adjacent to your property, please write or call:

Attn: Trimming and Clearing
P.O. Box 425
Calais, ME 04619

Tel- (207) 454-7555
Tel- (800) 696-7444


NOTE:  It may not be possible to consult with landowners during emergency clearing and trimming.