Austin Energy Tree Trimming Gets
For the seventh year in a row, Austin Energy has been named a Tree Line USA Utility by the National Arbor Day Foundation. The designation is awarded to utilities that adopt and follow best pruning practices, provide annual training for staff and contractors who manage pruning programs, sustain an ongoing tree planting program and educate the public on the proper location for tree planting relative to power lines.
The recognition underscores feedback from Austin Energy customers on the utility’s tree trimming (Vegetation Management) program. Spot telephone surveys were conducted each month with customers with trees that had been trimmed in 2008 through the line clearance program. Of 421 customers surveyed, 74% scored Austin Energy an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale for overall satisfaction with trimming that had occurred on their properties. And 95% of the customers surveyed said tree trimming is important.
Austin Energy employs 13 certified staff arborists to manage the work of its contract tree trimming crews. The contractors field another 12 certified arborists who develop and provide to each property owner a written plan for the trimming that needed on each property. Austin Energy is one of only a few utilities nationwide that meets with each property owner in advance of trimming. Last year, tree trimming was performed on more than 12,000 properties along more than 400 miles of power lines.
To receive the Arbor Day Foundation designation, utilities must follow proper pruning techniques that protect the health of trees such as avoiding topping, tipping, removing branch collars or leaving long stubs. Annual training must also be provided to workers pruning trees and the training must be performed by a trained arborist or forester.
The recognition also requires an ongoing tree planting program and providing education about tree trimming and planting to customers. Over the past 10 years, Austin Energy has funded the planting of 9,000 trees to replace trees removed because of poor health or involvement with power lines that would require too much pruning. Austin Energy also funds the planting of another 5,000 trees a year through various programs to help beautify neighborhoods and to reduce the urban heat island effect. On tree education, Austin Energy distributes thousands of brochures and tree planting guides annually that promote proper tree planting and pruning.
Austin Energy was one of only three of the 72 municipally owned utilities in Texas to receive the Arbor Day Foundation designation. None of the 72 cooperatives in Texas received the recognition.