W.A. Scott couldn’t believe what he saw after an APS contractor trimmed branches on his 40-year-old, fruitless mulberry tree that were threatening an overhead electrical wire.
“They took off so much it will fall over,” he said.
Scott would have preferred APS trim his tree in a balanced round shape, but according to Jill Hanks, APS spokesperson, that would not have followed industry safety standards.
“Rounding is not the industry standard,” she said. “That does not promote growth away from the lines.”
Hanks said cutting the tree in an “L” shape trains the tree to grow away from the lines — especially this variety of tree — in addition to protecting it from severe damage.
“The ‘L’ shape decreases growth through sprouts,” she said. “It’s unhealthy for the tree if you remove more than 30 percent of the canopy. We’re not trying to hurt the tree.”
Hanks also said this particular species of tree has a reputation for growing fast.
“Certain species experience reactionary growth due to losing foliage,” said Hanks. “Naturally, tree branches grow off of each other. But some species, like mulberry trees, shoot up sprouts that grow up very quickly.”
Hanks said APS has a three-year cycle for trimming trees near power lines. In the Payson area, crews have completed pruning.
“Work may be done at other times — off-cycle work may be done as hazards are identified,” said Hanks.
In order to keep the power on to Scott’s house, APS trimmed the trees way back. Scott thinks it was about 15 feet.
“I told the trimmers, I thought you had a five-foot easement,” said Scott, “They told me ‘No, it’s 15 feet now.”
Hanks said APS makes sure customers know they are coming to trim trees.
“Homeowners can be contacted via phone, text, email or in person,” she said.
Now, sometimes APS has to remove trees because they are a hazard to the wires.
In one case, a homeowner in East Verde Park had a cherry tree that wrapped around the guy-wires holding up a power pole.
The tree was old and rotted out from termites — clearly a danger to the electrical supply if it fell over and pulled the pole down with it.
“In the case of removal, the owner must give written permission,” said Hanks.
The tree trimmers said they had copies of text messages back and forth with the owner giving permission for the trees removed.
If an owner opposes the removal of an old, dead or dying tree, Hanks said APS will respect a homeowner’s desire to keep that tree.
“Let’s say there was a case that we determined a tree was dead or dying — and the homeowner said don’t remove it,” said Hanks. “We would trim it to make sure if it were to fall, it would miss the power line.”
Hanks said if an owner would like to replace the tree APS has removed, the utility company has a voucher program to pay for a new tree.
“APS partners with several nurseries in northeastern Arizona, including one in the Payson area — Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley,” said Hanks. “When the customer goes to the nursery with their voucher from APS, they can pick from among those species of trees. In addition to the tree, the customer will also receive a bag of soil.”
Yet Hanks said where a property owner plants a tree, as well as the species of tree, is critical.
“In order for a tree to remain compatible with overhead electric lines they should not exceed 25 feet in height,” said Hanks. “There is an agreed upon list of 11 species that are considered power line friendly.”
Hanks said APS representatives have reached out to Scott to discuss this program.