1. What does vegetation management mean?
Vegetation management is a broad term that captures how BPA seeks to remove or minimize the establishment of incompatible vegetation species under or near its transmission lines. The methods of vegetation management include tree pruning, brush removal through the use of power saws and mowers, the judicious use of herbicides and tree growth regulators, hazard tree identification and removal, and the control of weeds.
2. How does BPA typically handle trees in or near its rights of way?
Typically, BPA will clear trees to the edge of its right-of-way, which extends 75 feet from either side of the transmission line’s centerline for a total of 150 feet, to maintain the reliability of the line and safety of BPA’s line crews and the public. The distance is in part a function of the type and voltage capacity of the line along with topography of the corridor and type of vegetation found within the right of way and how those elements may impact the risk of interaction between vegetation and the transmission conductor. Along this transmission corridor, BPA is planning to reduce this clearance area to 62.5 feet from the centerline, and will evaluate vegetation removal needs between 62.5 and 75 feet from the centerline. However, BPA will remove vegetation within any right-of-way that represents an imminent or potential danger of coming in contact with the transmission lines or towers.
3. What is the exact number of trees or brush to be removed by the Bonneville Power Administration in 2019?
BPA does not currently have an estimate of the number of trees that will be cleared or trimmed. BPA’s original estimate was based on clearing to the edge of its right-of-way easement, which extends 75 feet from the centerline to either side of the transmission corridor. However, BPA balances risk with community impacts and cost to ensure the reliability of the bulk electric grid and safety of the public and BPA’s line crews. For most of the line, BPA will clear to the 62.5-foot mark from the centerline of the right-of-way and will evaluate trees and high-growing vegetation in the remaining 12.5 feet from the centerline on a case-by-case basis. Presumably, this will result in fewer trees being impacted as the concentration of trees is likely greater farther away from the centerline, or in the final 12.5 feet from the centerline compared to the first 62.5 feet.
4. How much will the removal of trees and brush cost?
The budget for the project is $549,500, or roughly $13,000 per mile. However, the actual cost will likely be less as BPA’s clearance focuses primarily on that first 62.5 feet of the right-of-way.
5. Under what conditions and how does BPA use herbicides for vegetation management?
BPA applies herbicides along its right-of-way only when necessary to supplement other methods of clearing such as cutting and mowing. Studies have shown that a combination of mechanical and herbicidal vegetation management can result in the least environmental impact. Additionally, BPA endeavors to use the least toxic herbicides commercially available – in this case, Garlon 3A. Herbicides are not applied within 164 feet from any known private or public wellheads.
6. What should you do if you have a wellhead near the line or are concerned about a particular sensitive area along the transmission corridor?
If you have a wellhead that is within 164 feet of the right-of-way, or if you are interested in protecting other sensitive areas (e.g., a community garden) from herbicide use, please email Communications@bpa.gov or call 1-800-622-4519. When leaving a message, please include details regarding the exact location of the area of your concern, your current contact information, and reference the “Sammamish-Maple Valley and Monroe-Novelty transmission lines.”
7. Did BPA engage in any type of environmental analysis prior to this work on the transmission corridor?
BPA’s vegetation management program complies with all applicable environmental laws and Department of Energy regulations. BPA’s environmental analysis of the vegetation management work specific to Sammamish-Maple Valley and Monroe-Novelty Hill transmission corridor falls under the broader environmental impact statement developed for BPA’s Transmission System Vegetation Management Program Regionwide. This EIS analyzed the more than 15,000 circuit miles of high-voltage transmission that BPA owns and operates. BPA performed a supplemental analysis of the its vegetation management practices for this specific transmission corridor that was completed in September 2018. That supplement analysis showed that there have not been any significant changes along Sammamish-Maple Valley or Monroe-Novelty Hill that are outside of the parameters of the comprehensive planning and evaluation since BPA completed its vegetation management EIS in 2000.
BPA takes great care to balance operational, reliability and safety needs with BPA’s commitment to environmental sustainability. BPA has been recognized in North America as best-in-class for its vegetation management practices.
8 Will BPA notify landowners before work is done in their neighborhood?
BPA makes a good-faith attempt to notify all landowners prior to any vegetation management or transmission line maintenance work. BPA works with landowners to address all sensitive areas (e.g., wells, community gardens) along the right-of-way, particularly when considering the spot application of herbicides. BPA endeavors to use the least toxic herbicides commercially available – in this case, Garlon 3A. Garlon 3A is a common class of herbicide chosen for its safety and effectiveness by numerous states, counties, communities and electrical utilities throughout the Northwest. BPA does not apply herbicides within 164 feet from any known private or public wellheads. BPA will work with landowners to resolve encroachments into the right-of-way or access roads to BPA’s easement.
To request an appointment with a BPA natural resource specialist, please email Communications@bpa.gov. BPA will set up a time to address your concerns. While BPA will work to accommodate specific landowner concerns when feasible, our vegetation management work is designed to ensure the reliability of the bulk electric grid in the Northwest as well as the safety of BPA’s line crews, the public, and landowners.
9. Why has BPA expanded its vegetation management program?
BPA has not expanded its vegetation management program. Puget Sound Energy’s approach to vegetation management was based on its own tolerance for risk and its own annual vegetation management cycle. BPA’s approach is based on a 3-year vegetation management cycle and BPA’s own tolerance for risk as the owner and operator of 15,000 circuit miles of high-voltage transmission across Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho, as well as portions of California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Maintaining the vegetation along BPA’s infrastructure is critical to the reliability of the bulk electric grid in the Northwest as well as the safety of BPA’s line crews, the public, and landowners. Puget Sound Energy’s and BPA’s approaches to vegetation management both adhere to the standards and guidelines of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. WECC is tasked with ensuring enforcement compliance in the region with the reliability standards of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.