While many of us were counting down to 2012, vegetation management crews across Arkansas were hustling to finish their work to remove limbs and trees at risk of falling on power lines during winter storms.

Entergy Arkansas, Inc. maintains more than 31,000 miles of distribution power lines, and a key component of that maintenance is managing the vegetation under and near the lines. Access to work areas in many cases can be difficult, and workers, mostly contractors, routinely face obstacles ranging from poison ivy to insects and snakes to steep slopes and swamps.


The company’s vegetation management team follows a four-to-five year cycle to ensure that all lines receive proactive tree maintenance. The work includes mowing, trimming, applying herbicides and removing tall trees outside of the right-of-way that are dead and in danger of falling on power lines. During 2011 Arkansas crews completed more than 7,800 miles of distribution vegetation management.


“Arkansas is a geographically diverse state, and every terrain presents its own variety of challenges, both for preventive maintenance and for restoration work.,” said Don Woods, vegetation management manager for Entergy Arkansas, Inc. “But we’ve been doing this a long time, and we know what it takes to minimize the threat of overgrown vegetation while respecting the environment, whether in the Ozark Mountains or the Mississippi River Delta.”


The persistent 2011 heat and drought conditions in the Southern states have created new obstacles in all Entergy service areas.Vegetation management groups typically spend the bulk of their efforts maintaining vegetation and trees in the immediate vicinity of the power lines. However, another threat is tall dead trees that are far enough from the lines to be outside of the right-of-way, but near enough to fall on the power lines if and when they fall. With the drought, these dead trees, known in the business as “danger trees” are plentiful. Workers have removed about 9,000 dead trees since January. This year’s drought conditions will continue to affect tree maintenance requirements for 2012 and beyond.


“It is sad to see the devastating effects of the drought up close,” added Woods. “We work diligently to find the balance between preservation, reliability, and customer satisfaction.”


Entergy Arkansas also participates in tree-planting projects and public education programs to teach people steps they can take to help the environment. In October, Entergy Corp. teamed up with the Arbor Day Foundation to provide 10,000 free trees to customers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Orleans and Texas. The effort was part of the Arbor Day Foundation’s pilot Energy-Saving Trees program aimed at helping conserve energy through strategic tree-planting. Entergy Arkansas encourages planting the “right tree in the right place” to avoid future tree maintenance work under or along energized power lines.


Entergy Arkansas, Inc. provides electricity to more than 698,000 customers in 63 counties.