High Voltage Transmission Power Lines and Orchards

Clearances Requirements for Orchards

On August 14, 2003, large portions of the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States, as well as Ontario, Canada, experienced a massive electrical blackout lasting up to four days in some areas. Fifty million people were affected along with major disruptions to critical public and private services, communications, transportation water systems and industry. It was determined that a tree had come into contact with transmission lines and was a significant contributing factor to the outage.

As a result of the blackout, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the development of mandatory and enforceable standards to prevent recurrence. On March 15, 2007, the FERC approved 83 standards, marking official departure from reliance on the industry's voluntary compliance with reliability standards and the transition to mandatory standards under the FERC's oversight.

FAC 003-1 of the new FERC standards requires investor-owned utilities like PG&E to have a formal Vegetation Management Program. PG&E’s Vegetation Management Program complies fully with the FAC 003-1.

Maintaining required clearances at all times depends upon several factors:

  • Height of the electrical conductor
  • Length of wire span between towers/poles
  • Voltage levels
  • Line sag under emergency loading conditions
  • Sway due to wind—trees and power lines
  • Type of tree and maximum tree height
  • Annual tree growth
Tower to Tower Height Zones for Orchards

Walnut and Almond Tree Removal Incentive Program

PG&E recognizes that our need to obtain the necessary tree-line clearance through pruning of the walnut and almond trees can significantly reduce nut production. Therefore, PG&E is offering a financial incentive to growers to remove the trees, in consideration for modifying the easement language to limit replanting of vegetation underneath the lines to row crops, vines, trees that reach a mature height no higher than 10 feet, and cherry trees that are maintained no higher than 15 feet. Owners of producing Walnut and Almond orchards, with trees planted under or adjacent to certain types of transmission lines, may qualify. To find out if you qualify, or would like more information, please contact Robert Fratini at (916) 781-3110.

In general, Incentive Payments are based on three factors:

  • The number of trees planted per acre in the orchard
  • An acre-equivalent basis of the total number of trees identified for removal
  • The appraised per acre value of the orchard in the County where it is located

Because there is limited funding, participation is on a first-come, first-served basis. The Incentive Program will be available through December 31st, 2007, or until funding has been exhausted, whichever comes first. It may also be extended based on funding availability for future years. PG&E reserves the right to terminate the program at any time for any reason.

Be Safe around Power Lines!

Safe behavior when operating equipment and working in fields is critical when power lines share space with orchards, workers and equipment. Serious accidents from workers and equipment making contact with electrical wires can be easily avoided. PG&E wants farm and ranch workers to avoid electric hazards by keeping basic safety rules in mind:

  • LOOK UP! Always look up for overhead power lines before beginning any activity.
  • Follow the 10-foot rule. Keep everything—you, the tools and materials you are handling and the equipment you are operating—as far away as possible from all power lines and never come closer than 10 feet. Any contact with wires by branches, pipe or equipment can be fatal.
  • Call before you dig. Always locate underground facilities such as electricity, gas, water, sewer or telecommunications before digging the ground. When you dig, you run the risk of breaking a utility line. Have your local utility locator service mark underground utility lines before you dig. more>
  • Irrigate with care. Do not spray water on power lines, equipment or structures. Not only can it damage equipment and short circuit the electrical system, a stream of water hitting a power line can create a path for electricity.
  • Use caution when moving equipment near facilities. Never stand an irrigation pipe on end near a power line. Always lower grain augers and other crop handling and tillage equipment before moving them anywhere near power lines. Never store materials directly underneath or adjacent to power lines. Beware of hooking guy wires when moving equipment.

Even if you don’t bring a structure or wire down, you might have weakened the structure or created slack in the line. If a structure or wire comes down, call PG&E at 1-800- PGE-5000, and stay away from a downed equipment until help arrives.