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Questions and answers about trees, trimming and vegetation near power linesunderground clearances

Clearances for Underground Service Equipment
Newer developments typically have underground electric service coming from a green transformer box. If you want to surround the box with a fence or shrubs, you must maintain safe and easy access for our maintenance work.

To help us avoid removing or damaging your landscaping, make sure you have a clearance of 3 feet on each side of our equipment and 10 feet to the front (where the lock is located).

5 tree planting tips

Call before you dig!How can trees affect my power?
Trees can affect service reliability, either at the precise location where a tree may contact a line, at other locations on that line, or at other locations on the electric grid. Fallen trees can interrupt power to many members. In a worst case scenario, a tree can tear down the entire line and break the poles holding the line in place. However, a tree or even a limb can fall across two of the wires on the pole and create a path for electricity flow. When this happens, protective equipment will generally de-energize the line. High growing bushes, shrubs, vines and trees may cause electrical blinks and flickers. If you have concerns about trees or vines growing near power lines, contact us. To be safe, never attempt to prune a tree near our wires yourself.

Are there safety issues surrounding trees and power lines?
Serious injuries or death may occur if energized power lines are touched. Main lines are not insulated; they are bare wires. Trees and tree limbs can tear down power lines. When trees grow close to and into the lines, there's a possibility of someone climbing a tree and making contact with an energized line. The lines are just as dangerous if touched by someone climbing in a tree, as they would be if touched by someone standing on the ground.

My trees haven't caused any power outages. Why are you cutting or pruning them?
SECO maintains power lines to provide members with safe, reliable power while at the same time minimizing any adverse effects to the health of trees. This is done in a manner consistent with good arboricultural practices.

Will I be notified before a tree crew comes to prune trees in my yard or neighborhood?
Door hangers are left on each member’s door before crews arrive for routine maintenance work that is preplanned and scheduled for the area. In some cases, we will discuss any specific work we will be doing on your property such as removal of trees in order to explain the process and the need for doing so. In emergency situations or in follow-ups related to outages that cannot be planned ahead of time, we are unable to give prior notification.

Does SECO prune or remove trees other than those near power lines?
We are only involved with the maintenance and removal of trees and other vegetation that might endanger the public or the safe and reliable operation of poles and lines for the delivery of electricity.

How does SECO decide when to prune, or is this done at random?
We have a routine cycle maintenance program for trees and brush growth around power lines. In cases where tree conditions are worse, one line may be maintained more often than another. If a particular line is not currently scheduled for maintenance, but begins to show an unacceptable number of tree-related outages, it will be maintained sooner.

How often does SECO prune trees in my area?
We employ a systematic approach to maintaining more than 4,600 miles of overhead power lines. The condition of trees and brush around the power lines dictates our need to manage the growth.

How much will be cut from my trees?
Each tree is different and must be considered individually. Trees with trunks close to the power lines require much heavier pruning than trees located farther from the line. Some techniques that are appropriate on hardwood trees cannot be used on some soft-wooded species. When pruning operations are performed, our trimming experts make every attempt to prune sufficient clearance so that the tree will remain safe until we return on our next routine maintenance. All work is done in accordance with ISA standards and accepted industry practices.

Does SECO “round-over” and/or “shape” trees?
We do not “round” trees over because it's not good for the health of the trees. We subscribe to a method of pruning called lateral and directional pruning. These methods are endorsed by many in the tree-care industry as being the best pruning technique for the health of the tree. The basis for lateral pruning is that each limb removed from a tree is removed either where it joins another limb or at the trunk. This procedure is different than the philosophy of “rounding” trees over in which limbs are cut at arbitrary points normally leaving unhealthy “stub” cuts. Directional pruning involves cutting a limb back to another limb, or lateral, so the limb's future growth is directed away from power lines. With directional pruning techniques, tree growth causes minimal impact to public safety and electrical service.

Are the tree pruners trained professionals?
Yes. Each crew has at least one person who is a certified arborist or who has completed an advance course in arboricultural training. Many of our contract Foresters and SECO vegetation staff are certified arborists, many with extensive practical experience.

Is there a charge for pruning trees on my property?
SECO prunes trees to ensure safe, reliable electric service to you. The cost of managing the natural growth around power lines is part of the rates paid by members of SECO and is done at no charge to you.

Can I prune the trees myself?
Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by trained professionals. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals do this work without the assistance of qualified professional. Please contact us for an evaluation of the trees and vegetation around power lines prior to any removals.

What types of trees and/or plants should be planted near transformers and power lines?
Trees with a mature height of less than 25 feet are the trees of choice under power lines. See our Tree Placement and Planting Guidelines page for more specific information about placement and clearances to equipment.

Is SECO responsible for clean-up after pruning trees?
The majority of our pruning and cutting occurs during routine line maintenance cycles. Our policy is to dispose of any small limbs and brush in landscaped settings. Any wood larger than 4 inches in diameter is cut into manageable lengths for your use. When an “Act of God” (such as lightning, high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes) cause trees or other vegetation to fall across power lines and create power outages, we cut the trees and brush so poles and lines can be replaced and re-energized. Disposal of any wood, limbs or debris resulting from this type of emergency operation is the property owner's responsibility.

Do members need to be present when the service is performed?
No, unless needed to unlock a gate or control pets.

Why can't I have my own tree pruning service do the job rather than SECO?
Most people would not hire another party to prune the tree and clear the lines. There are many government requirements that pruners must follow when working near power lines. For example, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has a requirement that states you cannot work within 10 feet of a power line without the proper training and certification.

Do you paint or repair cuts made from pruning?
No. Painting or repairing cuts has been found to be ineffective for slowing growth or preventing disease.

Can mulch or chips from the pruning be left with owner?
Yes, however, the chips are not sterilized and may include thorns, branches and pesticides from members spraying their trees. Our contractor will ask you to sign a permission form detailing how many loads will be left and where they will be placed to avoid any confusion.

Do you clear branches away from telecommunication and cable TV lines?
No. It is the responsibility of the phone and cable utilities to prune trees or vegetation around their lines.

Why are you asking my permission to prune?
Technically, we are performing a notification of work to be performed. We do this as a courtesy to you, our member. It is our legal responsibility to maintain our overhead distribution system to provide safe and reliable service. We contact you in order to make sure you understand the nature of the work to be done and to secure permission for removals as required outside of our easement or right-of-way area.

What happens if I refuse the company access to my tree?
SECO is obligated to keep lines clear to provide power to the community and our members. We make every effort to work with you to maintain the health and aesthetic appearance of your tree while accomplishing the goal of safe and reliable service.

Why don't you relocate your overhead lines to underground?
Underground cable systems and equipment are significantly more expensive than overhead installations. Restoration time for underground fault conditions is also much longer than overhead repairs. These issues, coupled with the fact that underground utility installation is more complex and expensive when working near the root systems of trees makes overhead installations a more economical approach.

SECO™ • 330 South Hwy 301, Sumterville, FL 33585-0301 • Citrus (352) 726-3944 •  Hernando (352) 521-5788  • Pasco (352) 521-5788
Lake (352) 357-5600; (352) 429-2195 • Marion (352) 237-4107; (352) 489-4390 • Levy (352) 528-3644 • Sumter (352) 793-3801
To report outages ONLY •1-800-732-6141 
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Page last updated: October 30, 2012