How do other electric cooperatives do right of way management?


November 16, 2020                                                                                                                                             Home

Powell Valley Electric Cooperative (PVEC) is one of 23 electric coops providing electricity to the people of Tennessee.  There are over 900 electric cooperatives in the United States.  

PVEC is responsible for maintaining the right-of-way along its 3,500 miles of transmission and distribution power lines.  The right-of-way is defined as the area 20 feet on either side of the power line, a total of 40 feet.  It is essential that the right-of-way be kept clear. If a line is down due to a winter storm or fallen tree, the linemen working to return the line to operating condition should not have to walk through blackberries, snagging weeds, and brush to get the power back on.

After evaluation of pros and cons, PVEC has determined that the best and most effective way to maintain its rights-of-way is primarily by herbicide ground spraying.  Prior to the use of chemical sprays, PVEC used tree trimmers to maintain the right of way. 

At the annual meeting in 2017, member-owners expressed their unhappiness with the unannounced chemical spraying of yards, beehives, ponds, and gardens.  A petition with more than 1,000 signatures opposed the use of chemical spraying.  Member Voices worked with PVEC staff to develop an opt out policy for those members who did not wish to have their property sprayed.  Policy linked here:

But some other cooperatives are exploring other options to keep the right-o-way clear.  Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative in Virginia has a staff person with the title of vegetation management supervisor.  Scott Sorrels is implementing a project to plant small trees in the right-of-way that will not interfere with maintaining power lines.  He also wants to educate members about the co-op’s Right Tree, Right Place program, which encourages homeowners to plant low-growing trees to avoid interference with power lines.

Infographic about tree planting

According to the November 10 issue of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) online magazine, “When the project is complete, Sorrels envisions a landscape dotted with a variety of small renewable energy installations—the co-op’s solar panels already are on display—and a habitat to attract butterflies and other pollinators. Low-growing trees—a landscaper recently planted saplings—will adorn the area, and educational displays will educate the public on the co-op’s smart tree growth practices.”  This habitat will be placed on the grounds of the cooperative in Rockingham County, Virginia. 

If you know of programs at other electric cooperatives that benefit member-owners, please let us know by email:

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