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Maintaining Rights-of-Way

Trimming Trees Now Keeps the Power on Later

Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation provides energy to more than 51,000 homes and businesses in eleven counties. Our crews maintain more than 5,000 miles of lines to keep the power flowing to our members. UCEMC’s lines would stretch from Nashville to San Francisco and back again if placed end to end. That’s a lot of line!

Keeping these powerlines maintained and functional is not an inexpensive undertaking. We invest more than $489,000.00 each month maintaining the power grid. It may surprise you that one of our most significant expenses from that amount is not poles or wires but trimming trees.

Reliable energy is essential to the co-op and the homes and businesses we serve. Keeping trees and other vegetation safely away from power lines is crucial for our ongoing system maintenance. Some power outages are out of our control – such as those caused by car accidents or lightning – but many outages can be prevented by ensuring trees and other vegetation are well away from the lines.

Each year the co-op and our contractors work to clear limbs and brush and, in some cases, remove entire trees that are too close to the lines or near other electrical equipment. They carefully follow guidelines and best practices provided by the International Society of Arboriculture.

It’s pretty simple. When trees and other vegetation get too close to the lines, it will eventually result in a power outage. One tree could knock out the power for a hundred homes, and keeping them away from the lines is necessary to keep the lights on.

Proper rights-of-way maintenance is a good investment that keeps the lights on for our consumer members.

Our distribution system is designed to safely cut the power when it detects any contact with the power line. It can’t tell if the contact is from a child flying a kite, a car accident, or a limb brushing against the line. Trees and limbs can knock out the power even if they don’t break the power lines. If they do breach the lines, the outage can last even longer.

Co-op members can help maintain a reliable flow of electricity in your community by reporting any potential problems you see. It’s also important to be patient and understanding when tree trimming crews are working on or near your property. Please familiarize yourself with our guidelines:

Tree and Vegetation Management  

  • Our ROW crew prunes a five-foot radius around service lines (from the power line to the home) and a six-foot clearance around guy wires, approximately every 6 years.
  • UCEMC does not prune around service lines at any other time.
  • Trees located within 20 feet of the centerline of an electric pole are cut “ground to sky” for a total clearance 40 feet wide.
  • UCEMC will make every effort to coordinate cutting of residential yard trees. (A yard tree is defined as a tree located in a residential lawn that is regularly mowed.)
  • All cutting shall be to the forty (40) feet clearance specification. All guy wires are to have a total clearance of six (6) ft.

Herbicide Use 

  • UCEMC’s ROW team uses herbicide as a tool to help maintain Rights-of-way.
  • Members have the option of joining our No Spray list. On properties where there is not a recorded easement on file and the owners do not wish herbicide to be applied, the owners must submit in writing to the ROW manager their “No Spray” request. UCEMC will then add the owners name to the “No Spray” list. This information is then supplied to UCEMC’s herbicide applicator contractors. (contact??)

Brush and Chip Disposal

  •  Brush or wood greater than 4” in diameter may be left onsite, cut into manageable lengths and stacked neatly. Members are responsible for disposal of their vegetation.


  • Stumps are cut parallel with ground level UCEMC is not responsible for any stump grinding.

Members may contact their District Office Rights-of-way personnel for more detailed information on vegetation specifications. Trimming vegetation impacts both you and your neighbors. Co-ops like UCEMC have the right to inspect and maintain power lines without the consent of property owners.  Still, we will make every effort to meet with property owners to discuss the work ahead of time. Thank you for helping us provide you with safe, reliable power.

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