Entergy not only regularly inspects its poles and removes danger trees from harming its feeders, but also relies on other techniques to keep its rights-of-way clear and safe. For example, to treat the smaller underbrush, Entergy and its contractor use chemical spraying. Removing the small underbrush before it gets entangled in the line pays long-term dividends because they don’t have to cut a big tree but can manage it while it’s still relatively low to the ground. This spraying technique can be more cost-effective than the manually intensive hand cutting.

The utility also uses a mechanical tree saw from Jarraff Industries, which can cut down everything in its path. A tractor pulling a bush hog runs over the remaining limbs, creating mulch and a clean right-of-way. The machines create so much noise that Entergy only allows their use in more secluded or remote areas, rather than in residential neighborhoods.

By working with Edko LLC, a vegetation management company, Entergy is also able to implement a tree growth regulator (TGR) program. For the TGR program, the arborists inject the chemicals into the tree and it modifies the trees on a cellular level so they divide at half the rate, which slows the tree’s growth.

For the trees that are already full grown, the vegetation management professionals trim the trees in the healthiest way possible to minimize its chance of mortality. All vegetation management contractors must be trained on how to trim trees based on international arboricultural standards before even setting foot on Entergy’s property. When working with contractors, Entergy has stressed the importance of safety to the point that important job safety analysis documents have been translated into Spanish to ensure understanding by as many contractors as possible. If the crews work safely and according to contract specifications, the job gets done correctly and all parties are happier in the end.

Dealing with Tree Mortality

Despite their best attempts at proactive tree trimming and maintenance, some of the trees in Entergy’s service territory are facing early mortality due to drought and the pine beetle. The pine beetle is one of the biggest killers of damaged of weakened pine trees in the Piney Woods region of eastern Texas.

Unfortunately, the drought and pine beetles have leveled a damaging one-two punch. As drought weakens the trees, the pine beetles then infest them and speed their death. Fortunately, like many other types of pests, pine beetles typically don’t infect the stronger trees surrounding the infected tree, but rather move to another location.

Entergy forecasts that it will see the effect of the drought for years to come. Even after conditions return to normal, drought-related stress will cause irreparable damage that can last into the future.

Since the drought affected many species of trees in Entergy’s service territory, the utility encourages homeowners to cut down trees that are showing signs of weakness before they pose a danger. This should only be done, however, if it can be done safely and in compliance with federal and state laws associated with working near power lines.

Identifying issues with poles and lines before they become critical problems is a key part of Entergy Texas’ efforts to provide safe, reliable power for its customers. By doing taking this proactive approach to maintenance, the Texas utility has been able to limit these issues.

Adam Duncan (adunca2@entergy.com) is the supervisor of work management for Entergy Texas Inc. He manages all of the company’s proactive maintenance-type activities from scheduling infrared inspections to pole maintenance.

Brian Garcia (bgarcia@entergy.com) is operations coordinator in Orange County for Entergy Texas Inc.’s vegetation management group.