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Some things go well together, like peanut butter and jelly. But there are other combos that are not a good mix, such as trees and nearby power lines. While the type of power line might vary between distribution, transmission, and service lines, one thing remains the same: OPPD wants you to stay safe when it comes to trees located near power lines.

When it Comes to Trees - Plan it Save Around Power Lines

Trees are fantastic – they provide shade, create oxygen, and are beautiful to look at. But they have the potential to cause safety problems when they come in contact with any type of power line. During storms, trees can fall on, and even take down, power lines. If branches simply touch the power lines, they can cause momentary power interruptions, power outages, and even fires. If there is a danger of a tree interfering with power lines, OPPD will trim (or remove) the tree, to ensure safety and reliable service.

When evaluating trees for trimming or removal, OPPD considers the health of the tree and its surroundings. Our tree trimmers follow the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A300 Standard Practices. These practices allow pruning cuts to heal more rapidly, reduce the chance of damage, and promote healthier regrowth. OPPD has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation with the Tree Line USA designation since 2001. This program recognizes utilities for pursuing best practices that protect and cultivate America’s urban tree canopy.

When planning to trim a tree, OPPD considers several points, including tree species, growth and regrowth rates, proximity to power lines, type of power line construction, natural tree shape, and general tree condition.

When does OPPD determine if a tree needs to be trimmed or removed? 
  • If there have been reports of electrical outages caused by trees in the area.
  • If there is an area where trees have been damaged (by storms, snow, wind, etc.).
  • During routine circuit maintenance.
  • During periodic inspections by OPPD staff.
  • If there have been reports from customers indicating potential issues between trees and power lines.

Trees & Distribution Lines

Distribution lines, which run through neighborhoods and carry electricity to end consumers, can easily be affected by trees. These lines are thinner than transmission lines and can be taken down by tree limbs and falling trees.

If you want to plant a tree in your yard and you’re near a distribution line, the amount of space you need to leave between your tree and the power lines will vary.
  • Small trees that are between 10 and 20 feet tall when mature can be planted adjacent to power lines.
  • Medium trees that are between 25 and 40 feet tall when mature must be planted at least 30 feet away from the power lines.
  • Large trees that are 50 feet or taller must be planted at least 50 feet away from the power lines.

Plant the right tree in the right place and keep them trimmed to help OPPD maintain reliable electric service, and to keep yourself safe from the possibility of down power lines.

Trans Line Tree Plant Guide Graphic

Trees & Transmission Lines

Transmission lines are much thicker and higher off the ground than distribution lines, because they transport more power. However, transmission lines can sag from high loads or hot weather, and they can swing when the wind picks up. If trees are too close, this can cause several problems. Electricity traveling through these lines will look for the most direct path to the ground by jumping (or arcing) to nearby objects – including a tree!

Tree considerations for transmission lines are different than those for distribution lines. No trees are allowed to be planted within a transmission right-of-way. If you are thinking of planting anything in the transmission line right-of-way, you must obtain approval from OPPD. You can technically plant along the immediate edge of the right-of way, but keep in mind it’s planted at your risk. If trees, shrubs, and/or vegetation interfere with restoration, maintenance, or new line construction, or if it poses a hazard to the integrity of the line, it will be removed.

Trees & Service Lines

Above ground service lines, or the power lines that go into houses and other buildings, are also very susceptible to interference from trees. It is important to note, OPPD does NOT maintain or trim trees that interfere with service lines. Homeowners need to keep an eye on the vegetation near their service lines. If you need to trim trees that are very close to the service line, contact OPPD to temporarily shut off service to your house, so you can avoid the risk of electrocution.

Test Your Knowledge

How Much Have You Learned About Trees and Power Lines?
Trees near power lines are not safe for many reasons, and we don’t want to lose power or cause safety hazards because of something that is easy to maintain. If you need to report a tree/power line problem, call 402-536-4131 in Omaha (1-877-536-4131 outside the metro), or use our contact form to reach the Forestry Department. To learn more about trimming methods used by OPPD and to see examples of trees/shrubs that can be planted adjacent to power lines, visit the OPPD arboretum at 108th and Blondo.

Check out the links in our Learn More! box and our other related articles and resources for additional information on tree maintenance and staying safe around power lines.