Puget Sound Energy will match the $12.5 million it spent last year on vegetation management to keep power lines clear and minimize the number of tree-related outages particularly during storms.

“While the Puget Sound is known for beautiful, lush vegetation, trees can become hazardous if not properly maintained,” said Sue McLain, senior vice president of Operations for PSE. “Most of the power outages in our Puget Sound service area are caused by trees, limbs and branches that are downed by heavy winds and fall into our lines. The most effective and immediate solution to increase reliability is to make sure trees and branches are clear of our distribution and transmission lines.”

Following the severe storm season in 2006, PSE has increased efforts to focus on improving reliability in areas hit heavily by tree-related outages, such as Whidbey Island, East King County and Kitsap County. The utility has also beefed up efforts along high voltage transmission corridors.

This is in addition to annual programs where PSE’s certified arborists inspect trees along PSE’s power lines for potential problems, and arrange for crews to trim or cut trees that may not make it through the next big storm.

The company also conducts the Tree Watch program, through which, with permission from property owners and local government, PSE will remove diseased and dying trees identified by arborists as ones that might be at risk for falling onto power lines.

The service has helped reduce power outages. Since its start in 1998, the Tree Watch program has cut the number of tree-related power outages by more than 20 percent. For those who suspect a tree on their property might pose a risk, PSE will arrange to have an arborist make a site visit within two weeks to determine if the tree is an immediate risk.

PSE also replenishes trees removed from utility corridors. In recent years, the company has allocated $500,000 to planting trees that are compatible with power lines. “Our goal is to plant trees that will not be a threat to power lines so that we can sustain the benefits of our region’s natural beauty while preventing power outages,” added McLain.

For the past seven years, PSE has earned the Tree Line USA award from the National Arbor Day Foundation in recognition of its efforts to protect and enhance urban forests while ensuring reliable energy service.