TUPELO – Since early spring, the Tennessee Valley Authority has cleared a right-of-way path of a 13-mile transmission line stretching across Lee County and nearby areas.
The right of way, ranging from 75 feet to 200 feet, is to prevent electricity from getting interrupted to homes and businesses.
And that means having to cut down a few trees along the way.
“Not everybody is understanding, but we try to explain to them why we’re doing it,” said John Dooley, TVA’s West Area Line Applied Services manager.
Trees and power lines can be a deadly combination. High voltage lines, which carry 100,000 volts or more, can arc to trees, buildings or other nearby objects.
TVA has nearly 16,000 miles of transmission lines across its footprint, including 13,000 miles of 161-kilovolts or higher lines.
Dooley said rights of way have been completed on 10 of the 13 miles of this particular 161-kV line TVA crews have been working on.
The general rule of thumb is not to have trees that can grow more than 15 feet high near transmission lines. Power lines can sag 15 feet to 25 feet.
More guidelines are available online at www.tva.gov/row, which also provide a list of compatible trees and shrubs that can be planted.
TVA and other power companies want to avoid another devastating blackout like the one a decade ago that hit the Northeast. That incident affected 50 million people and caused about $6 billion in economic damages.
TVA spends about $20 million a year on right-of-way vegetation management.
Homeowners and businesses are given a notice about potential tree-cutting that must be done.
The current work in the area should be done in the next few weeks.
“We have a lot of urban areas to work with at this point, so it may take a little more time,” Dooley said.
Once the work is done, it doesn’t mean more work isn’t needed. TVA spokesman Chris Stanley said another right-of-way clearing project is planned, but won’t be happening anytime soon.