A tree pruned around the transmission line on Mill Street. In the coming months

Nelson Hydro to expand tree pruning efforts

Tree pruning will increase public safety and reduce power outages, but officials expect complaints.

Nelson Hydro will soon begin its most extensive tree pruning project to date, as it seeks to remove every tree limb or branch that’s grown too close to a utility line.

Nelson Hydro line manager Doug Pickard was at a recent city council meeting, where he explained that the pruning will increase public safety and reduce power outages — though it’s certain to cause some alarm to the public.

“People are going it be concerned about the amount of clearance we’re going for, but it needs to be done. It’s industry standard,” Pickard told council.

The main transmission lines that connect the Granite and Mill Street substations will require a five metre buffer between the line and any tree branch and there can be no branches growing over the line. Most other power lines will require three a metre minimum clearance and branch overhang will be permitted, as long as a falling branch wouldn’t catch on the wire.

Exceptions can be made for some large stem conifer tree boles, which don’t sway much in the wind and are unlikely to be climbed by children. These trees can remain within one metre of the lines. As well, for communication lines owned by Telus or Shaw and other the low voltage lines that connect to individual homes, a one metre buffer is sufficient.

“Everything is really site specific and depends on the individual tree and what type of line we’re dealing with,” Pickard said, noting that once an arboricultural firm has been hired to undertake the work, there will phone number advertised for people to call if they want to find out what’s planned for their neighbourhood.

However home owners shouldn’t expect that they’ll be able to convince the arborists to leave the trees on their boulevard untouched.

“We need to be consistent throughout the city,” Pickard said. “This is something we should have been doing all along.”

Several councillors requested that Pickard make sure the company that’s hired will take into account aesthetics and the health of the trees while doing the work.

“Some of pruning I’ve seen has been quite brutal, and I’d really hope that you can find someone who can do what’s needed in a way that’s sensitive to the tree and the people living with the tree,” councillor Donna Macdonald said.

According to 2013 outage statistics, about 40 per cent of Nelson Hydro’s power outages are a result of trees interfering with the lines.

The tree pruning will be begin this spring in the downtown and along the main roads, then will move into the outlying neighbourhoods going from Fairview to Uphill to Rosemont, in that order. Areas around the schools will be done during summer break. Residents will be notified when the pruners are coming through their neighbourhood.

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