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Asplundh Tree Experts workers trim trees near power lines on the city’s southeast side.

Healthy tree canopy in utility’s power

I&M working with residents on concerns over trimming

Many Midwesterners have a special appreciation for our trees. Majestic tree canopies bring character and beauty to Fort Wayne and other cities.

For many, trees connect the past with the present and often carry memories and emotions.

Unfortunately, when not properly placed or pruned, trees pose a significant threat to maintaining electric power to your home and beyond. Last summer’s brutal derecho offered a stark reminder of what happens when trees and power lines intersect.

Indiana Michigan Power strives to balance property owners’ love of their trees with our vital mission of providing safe and reliable electric power.

That means trimming or removing trees near our power lines.

To preserve both the city’s spectacular tree canopy and reliable delivery of power, we seek to trim or remove trees before they pose a threat to power lines and poles.

This summer you may well see I&M crews or those of our contractors in your neighborhood. The process starts even before the work crews arrive – unless there is an emergency, I&M informs affected property owners in advance of any work to be performed.

We emphasize open communications with customers, sending a letter to every property owner along the appropriate lines – even if trees in their yards are not affected.

Our planners make multiple attempts to meet with property owners to discuss the work.

If we haven’t been able to make contact with a property owner, we follow up with cards placed on doorknobs of homes.

Let’s be frank: Some residents are less than happy about how much we reduce a tree canopy. We make every effort to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the trees while adhering to the accepted safety standards of the American National Standards Institute as well as OSHA:

•For single distribution lines that go through cities and down country roads, we maintain a minimum 10-foot clearance on each side of the power line.

•Where three lines carry power, the standard is 15 feet.

•Sometimes, we trim fast-growing trees such as the silver maple or the willow back farther, to keep them from growing into the power line for the next three to five years.

Trees in the public right-of-way – usually the area between a street and sidewalk – are a different matter because those are generally under control of the city.

In Fort Wayne, we work closely with the city arborist to determine which trees pose threats and, if they do, whether they should be trimmed or require removal. Fort Wayne residents should contact the city Parks Department with any questions about planting, removing or trimming any trees in the city right-of-way.

If you are considering planting a tree, remember that some trees that were once in favor – including the Bradford pear and the ash – are now considered problem trees or worse.

The National Arbor Day Foundation offers guidance on planting appropriate trees (see arborday.org and click on “Right Tree, Right Place.”) Residents within I&M’s service area with questions about trees can call 800-311-4634 (in Michigan, 800-311-6424). And before planting a tree, always use the 811 Call Before You Dig line.

Marc Labrie is regional forestry supervisor for Indiana Michigan Power. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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