Skip to main content

Tree Trimming

Trees contacting electric lines can cause interruptions in electric service (power outages), create safety problems, and cause fires. To minimize and eliminate such threats, BTU has developed and implemented a proactive tree trimming program to periodically prune trees away from the power lines in the BTU rights-of-way on your property.

BTU’s primary service goal is to provide you with safe, reliable, and reasonably priced electricity; its Vegetation Management Program is just one measure to achieve this goal and to secure your trust and confidence in BTU to provide first class service.

Useful information about BTU’s Vegetation Management Programs follows:

BTU’s Vegetation Management Program – An Overview: Why? How? When? Where


treeinpowerlineTrees, vines, and other types of vegetation can interfere with safe and reliable electric service. Such vegetation can restrict right-of-way access essential for routine system maintenance as well as service restoration repairs following major storms, etc. Like other electric utility companies, BTU proactively manages right-of-way vegetation to lessen the threat to system safety and reliability. We want to keep your lights on!


BTU employs a contracted work force to prune trees and control other types of vegetation on its rights-of-way; this work is known as ‘line clearance’. The contracted workers have been trained and certified to work close to high voltage power lines. Tree pruning is done by workers who either climb trees using special equipment or, where possible, use an aerial lift or ‘bucket truck’ to mechanically elevate themselves into position to access and prune the limbs close to the electrical wires. Sufficient branching will be removed from ‘target’ trees to assure limbs will not contact the wires before the next scheduled maintenance event.

Whenever possible, small volunteer trees with no ornamental value will be removed if they are growing directly under the line and would eventually have to be ‘topped’ to prevent contact with the line. At times, dead and/or unstable ‘hazard’ or ‘danger’ trees may have to be removed.

The power line rights-of-way (or corridors) where the workers will be trimming trees were established through the granting of easements – legal documents giving BTU the right to enter private property to build lines and to maintain the rights-of-way to assure system reliability and safety.

The line clearance contractor prunes trees in accordance with specifications and instructions from BTU. Whenever possible, best management practices developed by the Utility Arborist Association and the International Society of Arboriculture are followed. BTU’s Utility Arborist administers the line clearance contract.

Following line clearance work on your property, the contractor will remove brush, logs, and other clearing debris from the right-of-way. Generally, the brush will be chipped; logs will be hauled off intact or left on-site if the property owner wishes.


Every 4 to 5 years (the ‘Trim Cycle’), BTU will be on your property to inspect the right-of-way and perform any necessary tree pruning to keep the line safe and operable until the next scheduled visit. Several days prior to work in your neighborhood, the line clearance contractor will leave a work notification card (‘door hanger’) at the front door (or gate) to advise you of his intent to return to perform any work necessary. If you have questions or concerns regarding the work, please respond by calling the Utility Arborist whose phone number is on the card. At times, a door hanger may be left at an address where, upon inspection, no work will be necessary; nonetheless, BTU wants you to know when the contractor is in your neighborhood.

Utility Arboriculture – pruning trees close to electric lines

A challenge in right-of-way maintenance is to secure the required long term clearance between the trees and the wires, yet retain trees’ natural form and aesthetic value. This outcome is not always achievable because a tree’s branch structure, position in the right-of-way, and proximity to the lines may present no alternative to a misshappen and unattractive tree following the necessary pruning. Nonetheless, BTU’s line clearance contractor will follow industry accepted principles of proper arboriculture whenever possible for maintenance of tree health and to minimize sprout growth from unacceptable ‘stub’ cuts. There is no guarantee that pruning work will leave all trees attractive. With time, the growth of branches near large cuts will mitigate the visual impact of heavy pruning.

Common principles employed in line clearance tree pruning are:

  • a few large cuts are preferable to many small cuts
  • a limb is shortened by cutting it back to a lateral (side) branch instead of making the cut between two branches
  • a tree’s leader (central trunk) is shortened by cutting it back to a lateral branch instead of making a cut between two lateral branches
  • a limb that must be pruned but cannot be cut back to an appropriate leader is best removed at its point of origin
  • directional pruning

As mentioned, a tree’s location in the right-of-way relative to the wires will, in part, determine how it will appear subsequent to pruning. The work will often result in the two crown profiles (a. ‘side trim’ or b. ‘through trim’) as illustrated below. Trees growing directly below the lines that will require radical pruning to secure the necessary clearance should be removed.


Service Drops

servicedropBranches close to or contacting the service line (‘service drop’) running from the utility pole to your meter normally are not pruned by BTU’s line clearance contractor or BTU service personnel. BTU, at your request, will disconnect this line and move it clear of the limbs to allow you or another to safely prune the potentially interfering limbs or to remove a tree.

Storm Work

High winds, driving rains, ice, and flooding can damage BTU’s electrical system resulting in service interruptions. During such emergencies, BTU’s entire contracted line clearance workforce will work to get the lights back on by clearing limbs and toppled trees from the wires. Such work will be prioritized to restore electricity to the greatest number of customers in the shortest time; consequently, only the minimum amount of work necessary will be done at a given location to get the lines cleared and to get the crews quickly on their way to the next assignment. Under such circumstances, storm work debris (brush and wood) will not be collected and disposed of by BTU.

Who to call – tree/wire problems and questions regarding BTU’s Line Clearance Program

For emergency calls – trees, tree limbs on the wires, other safety concerns involving trees, etc,

CALL: BTU Dispatch at 822-3777

For pruning schedule, right-of-way maintenance policy, and contractor issues/questions,

CALL: BTU Utility Arborist at 821-5930 or 777-2938

How you can help

Some things property owners can do to help BTU maintain rights-of-way that are accessible, safe, and require only minimal periodic maintenance and disruption of their landscapes are:

Avoid planting tall growing trees in the right-of-way directly under the lines


Prevent volunteer ‘trash trees’ such as hackberries, willows, cottonwoods, and Chinese tallow trees from growing up along fencelines under the lines.

Safety Concerns

Often, BTU is confronted by property owners who advise us that they or an arborist of their choice will clear any interfering vegetation from the lines. A commercial arborist must be ‘line clearance certified’ to work closer that 10 feet to an electrical line. All electrical lines are potentially lethal; don’t take a chance trimming or removing trees that could contact the lines. Please let BTU do the line clearance tree trimming.

BTU will always be glad to meet you on-site to offer advice and possible assistance in tree and major limb removals close to the lines where your safety and the lines are threatened.

Useful Information

The following websites offer valuable information regarding tree selection, planting, and maintenance: