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News Releases : OPPD’s lofty leafy efforts earn an honorable distinction

Omaha Public Power District has earned an honorable distinction for its commitment to proper tree planting and care. The Arbor Day Foundation has named OPPD a Tree Line USA Utility for the 17th consecutive year. The utility received the honor during a Tree Awards ceremony in York, NE today.

Tree Line USA is a partnership between the foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. It recognizes public and private utilities for pursuing practices that protect and enhance America’s urban trees. The criteria to be named a Tree Line USA Utility include: 

  • Following industry standards for quality tree care
  • Providing annual worker training in best tree-care practices
  • Sponsoring a tree-planting and public education program
  • Maintaining a tree-based energy conservation program
  • Participating in an Arbor Day celebration.

“Trees are such a vital part of our lives,” said OPPD Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer Mo Doghman. “Utilities, like ours, have a vested interest in helping ensure our customers plant the right trees in the right locations.”

Doing so, he said, can help provide wind breaks during the cold winter months and shade during the hottest months, resulting in energy savings.

“There’s another extremely important reason to plant strategically,” Doghman said. “Making sure you plant trees a safe distance from power lines helps OPPD maintain and improve reliable electric service.”

Utility Award goes to OPPD employee
At this morning’s ceremony, OPPD Supervisor of Transmission & Distribution Maintenance Management Chris Vrtiska was surprised with another honor – the Utility Award.

He was one of four representatives from various utilities considered by the Nebraska Forest Service and Community Forestry Council. The organizations selected Vrtiska for factors including his dedication to utility education, as well as proper care for and planting of trees.

“This is an award for the whole utility,” Vrtiska said. “We have a great team that works together, whether it’s tree trimming or educational efforts. We care for our community, and we want to keep reliable power flowing. Proper care for trees is a big part of that.”

Public education
Over the past couple of years, foresters have worked hard to educate the public about the threat that emerald ash borer (EAB) poses to system reliability. The invasive and destructive bug was first discovered in Nebraska in 2016. Once it shows up in an area, it spreads quickly, killing about 70 percent of unprotected ash trees within four years. 

“OPPD has identified 10,000 ash trees in proximity to power lines throughout our service territory,” said Mike Norris, a utility forester with the district. Norris is also on the Nebraska EAB Task Force. 

“Property owners with ash trees should take action, now, to treat and protect healthy ash trees, or to remove unwanted or weakened ash trees.” 

Read more about EAB on OPPD’s The Wire. It’s just one of the tree-related topics on which OPPD publishes information, both on that site, as well as the Storm & Outage Center.

OPPD’s other educational and community outreach efforts include:

  • Working with the public to demonstrate proper tree planting, placement and pruning, while expanding the tree canopy in our communities. These efforts include the operation of the OPPD Arboretum, located on the northeast corner of 108th & Blondo streets.
  • Sponsoring or participating in annual Arbor Day events within OPPD’s service territory, collaborating with community groups when possible.
  • Working year-round in cooperation with the district’s customer-owners and contractors to maintain proper clearance of electric lines. They follow industry standards for quality tree care and complete annual best-practices training.

Visit to learn more about OPPD’s forestry work. To learn more about Tree Line USA, visit