Controlling problem brush and weed species in power line rights of way not only keeps power flowing safely and smoothly to customers, it’s also required for compliance with current reliability standards. As utility companies throughout the country search for the right vegetation management program, South Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (RECC) developed an efficient, effective approach to provide reliable power and meet regulations.

“It’s a challenge to get everything under control,” says Paul Merrick, RECC team leader. “We have to manage the ground brush and the limbs that approach power line sites.”

Herbicides Extend Control

Sizing Up Weed-Control Methods
Herbicides
Mowing
Longer control Immediate results
Fewer passes No drift concerns
Lower labor costs No resistance issues
Less fuel use
Selective weed control
Reduced soil erosion
Using herbicides to control brush can add a year or more to the window of control compared to bush hogging, Merrick says. “Controlling brushy, stem-type species, while allowing the grasses and wildflowers to come back, allows us to use less herbicide, cover more ground and spend more time side trimming. Compared to bush hogging, a herbicide program has the potential to reduce operating costs by 30 to 50 percent.”

An effective herbicide not only extends time between applications, but also reduces the number of stems that must be controlled, explains Merrick. “For example, on the initial application, you may have 100 stems in an area; the second time around you may only have 20 to 30. Your control cost decreases because you are applying less product and your right of way is opened up, making maintenance easier. You cut costs by using less product, and you save time and labor.”

Environmental Benefits

Environmental safety is also important, adds Merrick. “Another benefit of using herbicides instead of mowing is protecting soil from erosion. Mowing in wet conditions can make ruts, which start to wash away the soil.

“By controlling vegetation in rights of way,” he says, “we ensure smooth power delivery, create areas that are pleasing to the eye and help provide feeding places and homes for wildlife to thrive.”