Statement of Purpose/Goals & Objectives
The VEC Vegetation Management Department is responsible for maintaining vegetation that is in close proximity to electric facilities in order to minimize the threat it poses to those facilities, to VEC employees, and the general public. The department takes an environmentally-responsible approach to improve reliability, provide for safe and efficient operation and maintenance of distribution and transmission systems, maximize cost-effectiveness, and enhance member satisfaction. VEC has established a target of attaining a five-year vegetation maintenance cycle on transmission rights-of-way and an eight-year maintenance cycle on distribution rights-of-way. You can view VEC’s latest vegetation management plan (updated every five years) here. You can also read a description of general utility vegetation management practices here. For more information, please contact Sara Packer, VEC Transmission and Distribution Vegetation Management Program Manager at [email protected].
VEC employs Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM), a system of managing plant communities that considers a combination of methods to control undesirable vegetation and that includes biological, chemical, cultural and physical (e.g. mechanical and manual) methods of control. In general, physical and/or chemical control methods are the most appropriate and most frequently used vegetation control options for utility rights-of-way. The retention of low-growing, compatible vegetation inhibits the future growth of incompatible species and is therefore considered a form of biological control. Other biological controls (e.g. grazing by animals) and cultural controls (e.g. using fire to eliminate undesirable vegetation) have limited application and are seldom used. (See section below for more information on herbicide application.)
Maintenance of rights-of-way generally involves the cutting of all brush (up to 25 feet on each side of the center of the pole line for distribution lines and up to 50 feet on each side for transmission lines) to ground level, as well as pruning of all branches growing towards conductors. It also involves the removal of any/all trees that cannot be properly pruned to provide adequate clearance. In some cases, trees that could pose a particular threat to conductors or structures are removed regardless of distance from the center of the pole line.
Before doing vegetation management work on an individual’s property, VEC or the contractor who is doing the work makes every reasonable effort to contact the property owner before starting work. In cases where VEC or contractors have not been able to notify landowners in person, maintenance activities will not take place for a minimum of five days after a message is left (via phone, email or hang tag). If five days have passed and the member has not made contact with the specified foreperson, maintenance activities will take place without any further notice.
A reasonable effort will be made to identify property owners at locations where there is not a nearby residence.
When applying herbicides, VEC conducts general notification to landowners according to Vermont Public Service Board Rule 3.6 and the Vermont Regulations for the Control of Pesticides. Property owners who live within 1,000 feet of a utility right-of-way may be eligible to receive mail notifications before herbicide treatment. To apply, property owners are required to fill out an Herbicide Public Notice Coupon. In addition, VEC Vegetation Management staff provides contractors with the physical address of all individuals who have requested that herbicides not be utilized on their property.
The contractor is responsible for making personal contact with each individual who has requested that herbicides not be used and meeting with them to clearly identify their property lines on the ground prior to any adjacent herbicide applications. In instances where the contractor cannot identify and/or contact a property owner, the contractor will work with VEC's Vegetation Management staff to determine the appropriate course of action prior to any herbicide application.
Brush, branches and woody debris from pruning and removal operations along roadsides and within manicured lawns will be chipped. In all other areas, the brush will be moved away from the poles, out from under the conductors and windrowed (placed in a long, low heap or pile) off to the side. Trees, which have been cut remain the property of the landowner and will be left on site. Trees that appear to contain log products will be left in long lengths (except when it is necessary to take them down in smaller sections) and all other wood will be blocked up and piled unless directed otherwise by the member.
VEC's Vegetation Management staff includes a Society of American Foresters Certified Forester and an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. For more information, please contact Sara Packer, VEC Transmission and Distribution Vegetation Management Program Manager at [email protected].
Does VEC use herbicides to keep vegetation from interfering with power lines? Yes, in limited locations and under strict regulatory guidelines. All applications are made under conditions set forth in a permit granted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and reviewed by the Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council (VPAC). All products used are federally registered and labeled for specific uses by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are applied by licensed applicators according to product label directions. On-site use inspections are conducted annually by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
Why does VEC use herbicides? The targeted use of herbicides is part of an overall strategy – one that also includes hand-cutting and mowing – to help control vegetation in VEC rights-of-way in order to minimize outages and more quickly and safely restore outages when they do occur. Use of herbicides is a cost-effective way to control certain types of vegetation in selected areas. The overarching goal is to promote low, slow growing species that are compatible with power lines and discourage tall, fast growing species that are incompatible.
When does VEC apply herbicides? VEC’s applications of herbicides generally take place from June through September each year.
How are the herbicides applied? Workers who are licensed to apply the herbicides walk the rights-of-way with hand operated back-pack sprayers and apply the product to the leaves of small trees and brush. Herbicides are applied only by manual methods that target individual plants or compact clusters of plants. Aerial or wide-area spraying is not done. Herbicide applications specifically target fast growing tree species which are incompatible with the electric facilities. Grass, flowers, vegetables and low growing shrubs are compatible with the power lines and are not targeted during herbicide applications.
Will VEC be applying herbicides near my water supply? Herbicide applications do not take place within 100 feet of known private water supplies or 200 feet of public water supplies. Please note: You are responsible for making your local utility aware of the location of any potentially affected water supply and of any other environmentally sensitive area where herbicide applications should be avoided. (See contact information below)
How does VEC notify members of a planned herbicide application? Every January/February VEC publishes an annual announcement/coupon in our quarterly newsletter, Co-op Life, explaining the rights of VEC members relative to herbicide applications. If you reside on or own property within 1,000 feet of an electric utility right of way, you may sign up to be notified of any pending herbicide applications. Workers applying herbicide also either place phone calls or go door-to-door to speak with and/or leave information for residents in advance of the planned applications. Finally, every spring VEC runs announcements in newspapers and on radio stations in the counties where herbicide applications are planned.
What should I do if I want to be notified of an application in my area? You should return the coupon found in the Winter Issue of Co-op Life (or download it here) and VEC will send you a notification letter at least 30 days prior to the date that herbicide applications will begin for the season to let you know about any pending application near your property. Then, as the date of application approaches, the workers who will apply the herbicide will either call on the phone or go door-to-door to speak with or leave information for residents who have asked to be notified. You can also be placed on the notification mailing list by contacting VEC at the email address below.
What if I’m not home when the workers come through my area to conduct notifications? When an herbicide application is planned in your area and the applicators place calls or go door-to-door, they will leave a message or a notification hang-tag with their contact information on it, if you are not home. If you have a water supply within 100 feet of the right-of-way or have any other questions or concerns, be sure to contact them within 15 days. If 15 days have passed and they have not heard from you, the application will take place as planned, without any further notice.
What happens if I do not want herbicides used on my property? After receiving all available information regarding VEC’s herbicide applications, you may request that herbicides not be used on your property. VEC will honor all such requests upon notification from the landowner.
I let VEC know some time ago that I don’t want herbicides applied on my property. Do I have to notify VEC again? If you have previously let VEC know that you do not want herbicides applied to a right-of-way on your property, we will not apply herbicides in that area. Nonetheless, we suggest that landowners contact us to update information/requests approximately every 5 years. While the state allows utilities to charge a fee to those people who request pesticides not be used, VEC does not charge any fee.
I told VEC I did not want herbicides used on my property. Why did I still receive a letter saying they are applying herbicides in my area? VEC tracks all locations where members have any concerns with the use of herbicides and follows the same process for all. So, whether you have requested advanced written notification or you have requested that herbicides not be used at all, you will receive a letter at least 30 days prior to the date that herbicide applications will begin for the season to let you know about a pending application in your area. If you have requested that herbicides not be used on your property and an application is planned for a property adjacent to yours, as the date of application approaches, you will also be contacted by the workers who are applying herbicide so they can identify your property boundaries and water supply.
What are the names of the herbicides VEC uses? VEC uses a range of different herbicides depending on the year, the location and other conditions. If you have questions about specific herbicides please contact Sara Packer (contact information below.)
Are the herbicides that VEC uses safe? The EPA approves these products for use only after determining they will not adversely affect people, animals or the environment when applied correctly. For more information about VEC’s Vegetation Management Program or to let VEC know of any concerns, contact VEC Vegetation Management Program Manager Sara Packer at [email protected]. For more information about herbicide regulation, please contact Agrichemical Management Section Chief at the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Cary Giguere at [email protected].