Laurens Electric Cooperative (LEC) proactively engages in a system-wide right-of-way maintenance program to provide safe and reliable electric service to its members – all day, every day.
We provide electric services with over 5,500 miles of power lines to more than 53,000 members within 1,400 square miles of Upstate South Carolina, making LEC the fourth largest cooperative by number of members in South Carolina. Providing cost efficient and reliable electric service to our members is challenging because the terrain varies and is covered with many fast-growing species of trees. Our well-managed right-of-way maintenance program helps LEC provide its members with safe and reliable electric services.
While trees add to the beauty of our communities, they are also responsible for costly property damage as well as dangerous and inconvenient power outages. In fact, tree failure is by far the leading cause of outages. A tree that grows into electrical conductors presents a potential hazard to you and others if it becomes energized when contacting a power line. The right-of-way program is a critical part of your everyday reliable electric service and is a critical part of our business, but most importantly, it is a critical part of your safety – for your family, friends, and neighbors.
What is Right-of-Way?
In the strict sense of the word, right-of-way refers to the land on which infrastructure is built. Infrastructure could be anything from a highway, airport or power lines. Projects such as power lines, pipelines or telephone facilities all require right-of-way.
LEC uses right-of-way to build and maintain power lines. We maintain right-of-way areas by controlling brush and tree re-growth in all easement areas. Right-of-way is usually on private land and is obtained by an agreement with the current landowner when new poles and wires are installed. LEC doesn’t own the private land but is legally granted the right by the landowner to maintain brush and tree re-growth.
Why LEC needs right-of-way?
Laurens Electric has a legal obligation to provide safe and reliable electric service to our members. This obligation could not be met without a commitment to an effective right-of-way program.
With the vast size of LEC’s service area and its diverse terrain, a well-maintained right-of-way program is a critical part of our everyday functions. It is important to have clearance between trees, brush and power lines and poles, so your power stays on. If the power does go out, a maintained right-of-way helps our line crews spot the cause of an outage so they can get your power back on more quickly. Thick brush and trees in easement areas limit access and cut efficiency and safety for line crews. Before crews can fix a power outage, they need to drive or walk every piece of line before turning on the power or it could be harmful or even fatal to a line worker or yourself. If line crews can’t access the lines because of poor right-of-way, the member is more likely to be without power for a longer period of time and more often.
About LEC’s right-of-way program
Right-of-way maintenance is accomplished through side trimming and removing trees and limbs, bush hogging underbrush to allow access, and the use of environmentally friendly herbicides. Urban areas are maintained utilizing a two-year cycle and rural areas are on a four-year cycle. LEC spends nearly $1 Million dollars a year trimming, treating, and clearing right-of-way.
Our right-of-way clearance is 20 feet on each side of the power line. If trimming needs to be done the tree should be left in a healthy state, with some aesthetic value. If this cannot be accomplished, we may opt to remove the tree if it is cost effective rather than create an eyesore and future problems. A danger tree is one that is partially dead, shows sign of rot, or has insect infestation, cankers, eroded root systems, conifers with brown needles, or is a deciduous tree that will no longer leaf out and clearly will cause damage to a Laurens Electric power line that can create an unsafe condition.
Our crews pay special attention when evaluating the line clearance before trimming or removing a tree. The National Electric Safety Code requires us to follow a certain amount of clearance around wires and trees. This can depend on voltage, the tree’s growth rate and other characteristics, and the re-clearing cycle – how frequently it will need to be re-cleared. In cases where we’ve encountered large established trees on right-of-way, we have found that the removal of limbs helps to redirect the future re-growth away from the wires, thereby eliminating the need to remove the entire tree. This also keeps maintenance costs to a minimum while helping to ensure that the tree won’t need drastic trimming in the future.
After re-clearing, brush and re-growth are maintained with an environmentally friendly herbicide treatment, which encourages slow re-growth. The herbicides that are used are varieties which can be purchased over the counter by private land owners. The products are used in accordance with label instructions and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our personnel must carry current herbicide labels and material safety data sheets, as is required by law. We control all species of woody brush and trees, except for berry bushes and small growing flowering plants.
Member and landowner notification
Members of Laurens Electric and landowners are notified before crews begin working on a section of scheduled right-of-way by mail.
Although LEC can legally maintain easement areas without any prior notification, we feel it is a customer courtesy to inform the property owner again with an easement maintenance notice. If members or landowners have any questions about right-of-way maintenance in their area, we encourage them to contact the general foreman listed at the bottom of the notice.
Reporting a tree problem
There are ways to report a tree problem. In emergency situations for example, when a tree is leaning on a power line, etc. please contact LEC directly at 866-9RESTORE.
The emergency situation will be handled as soon as possible. The non-emergency situation often needs to be scheduled and we will try to handle the situation as soon as possible. Whether the non-emergency situation can be handled immediately depends on available crews and whether the call is received during their busiest right-of-way season, which is generally in the spring until late summer. To report a non-emergency situation, please call LEC at 800-942-3141 or send an e-mail.