Frequently Asked Questions Rights of Way
Why are you trimming or cutting down my trees?
Trees can disrupt power in a number of ways. For example, trees can grow into the electrical equipment or fall across power lines, causing outages.
To provide reliable service, Duke Energy must prune or remove trees along the power lines. These practices are approved by internationally recognized tree care associations and are referred to as Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM).
An IVM program evaluates vegetation and determines the best methods for maintenance and tree removal to ensure reliable service. Our program’s objective is to minimize tree-related power outages in a manner that is consistent with good arboricultural practices.
What happens when trees come into contact with power lines?
Under certain conditions, trees and tree limbs can conduct power if they come in contact with power lines. If you see a fallen tree in contact with a power line, immediately contact Duke Energy at 800.777.9898. No one should climb trees that are in the vicinity of power lines. Serious injury or death may result from climbing a tree and making direct contact with, or coming too close to an energized line.
If trees or tree limbs fall and tear down power lines, the downed power lines may still be energized while in the air or on the ground. If you see a downed line, always assume it is energized and stay away. Never touch or try to drive over a downed power line. If you see a downed line, immediately contact the Duke Energy outage reporting line at 800.777.9898.
Duke Energy schedules periodic vegetation maintenance along power lines to minimize outages caused by trees in or near transmission and distribution rights of way. We also depend on help from the public. When people identify downed lines or trees touching power lines, and act wisely, it minimizes the risk from trees contacting power lines.
Please contact Duke Energy at 800.777.9898 if you have any questions about maintaining trees and vegetation around power lines.
Will I be notified before a tree crew comes to cut trees in my yard?
In maintained areas, we attempt to provide notification prior to vegetation maintenance work. Notification may be made via door hanger, telephone call, letter, in-person contact or a combination of these methods. A point of contact will be provided should you have questions or concerns about the upcoming vegetation work. If our attempts to notify you are unsuccessful, work will proceed without further direct notification.
There are instances when a tree must be trimmed or removed without prior notification.
How often does Duke Energy trim or cut trees?
Duke Energy trims trees to provide reliable service to our customers. Planned maintenance is prioritized by evaluating reliability data, field conditions and other specific information.
There are instances when a tree must be trimmed or removed outside of planned maintenance.
Does Duke Energy "round" over trees?
We do not “round” trees over because it contributes to poor tree health. We employ lateral and directional pruning methods endorsed by tree care professionals. The basis for proper pruning is that each limb removed from a tree is removed either where it joins another limb or at the trunk. These procedures are different than “rounding” of trees over in which limbs are cut at arbitrary points, normally leaving unhealthy “stub” cuts.
Who should trim or cut trees around power lines?
Only line clearance qualified personnel should perform tree work around or adjacent to power lines and electrical equipment. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals have done this work without the assistance of qualified professionals.
Contact Duke Energy to request a representative to make evaluations of your request.
Is Duke Energy responsible for cleanup after trimming trees or weather events?
The majority of our pruning and cutting occurs during planned maintenance. In maintained or landscape settings, our policy is to dispose of any small limbs and brush. The larger pieces of wood are cut, but not necessarily in firewood lengths. In non-landscaped sites, pruned vegetation and wood are left in place to biodegrade.
When an “act of God” (such as lightning, ice storms, high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes) or other natural events cause trees or other vegetation to fall across power lines and damage facilities, we cut the trees and brush so poles and lines can be replaced and re-energized. Disposal of any wood, limbs or debris resulting from this type of emergency operation is the responsibility of the property owner.
Does Duke Energy manage vegetation that interferes with the light levels or pattern of light from streetlights and security lights?
Duke Energy does not prune trees for light levels or pattern.
Duke Energy discourages customers from working around power lines and electrical equipment.
It's the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the growth of any trees interfering with the lighting pattern.
Please contact Duke Energy at 800.452.2777 if you have questions regarding maintaining trees and vegetation around power lines.
Does Duke Energy use herbicides to control vegetation in rights of way?
Duke Energy uses environmentally responsible herbicide applications to control tall-growing incompatible plants within power line rights of way. Our objective is to promote low-growing vegetation to minimize potential electric power interruptions, which also enhances wildlife habitat. We use professional contractors to apply herbicide by utilizing different methods including foliar, stump, stem and vine applications. Duke Energy contractors have been trained on the proper, safe and environmentally responsible techniques of managing plant growth. All products used by Duke Energy are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency and approved by appropriate state agencies.
Can I replace a tree that has been cut down?
Before you plant a tree or shrub, please make sure the location is out of the right of way of overhead power lines and away from underground power lines and other utilities. Call 811 before you dig.
For additional information please visit our Plan Before You Plant page.
What types of trees and/or plants may be planted near pad-mounted transformers and power lines, and what do I need to consider prior to planting?
When selecting a tree or shrub to plant, it is just as important to consider what you plant as it is where you plant. The right tree or shrub, planted in the right place, can give you years of beauty and value without the potential dangers of getting too close to power lines.
Tree placement in relation to overhead power lines is critical in order to preserve the natural size, shape and overall integrity of the tree and protect the intent for which it was planted.
For information about planning and planting vegetation around electrical facilities please visit:
- Arbor Day Foundation, Right Tree in the Right Place
- United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service
- North Carolina State University, Plants
For additional information please visit our Plan Before You Plant page.
Can tree species that are compatible with a distribution line right of way be removed during routine maintenance?
Yes, Duke Energy’s rights of way in non-landscaped/unmaintained areas are initially mowed, making identification of compatible versus incompatible species impractical. Therefore, compatible versus incompatible species are subject to removal through mowing. However, after the non-landscaped/unmaintained area is mowed, follow-up herbicide applications are applied to the volunteer, woody vegetation that is incompatible within the rights of way. Compatible species are not targeted for herbicide application.
Are there any special circumstances that would cause Duke Energy to limit tree pruning to less than a specified distance on either side of the right of way center line?
Yes, there are special circumstances that may include: (1) the proper ANSI cut is not a specified distance from the center line, (2) the trunk of a mature tree is established within rights of way, (3) the tree is inhabited by an endangered species, (4) the tree is a slow-growing species, or (5) there is a Department of Transportation encroachment. In some locations, Duke Energy may have an easement of varying widths.
Can I trim trees myself?
Occasionally, a property owner will make the decision to conduct trimming or removals on their own or hire a third party. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by qualified professionals. Serious injuries, and even fatalities, have occurred when unqualified individuals perform this type of work without the assistance of qualified professionals. As stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) standards and ANSI Z133, an unqualified person should not work within 10 feet of overhead power lines with voltages below 50,000 volts. The distance increases with voltage for all voltages equal to or higher than 50,000 volts.
Asset Protection & ROW FAQs
What is a right of way?
A right of way is a type of easement or agreement that grants a utility the right to use, access or transit a piece of property. An easement is typically granted by property owners to an electric utility for the purpose of constructing and maintaining power lines and other equipment. Before a power line is built, Duke Energy acquires easements from property owners along the selected route.
How do I identify distribution and transmission structures?
If the structure is wooden, round or square concrete, or metal lattice tower or H-frame (a two-pole structure) and typically over 60 feet tall, it is a transmission structure.
If the structure is wooden and 30 to 40 feet tall with or without transformers attached, it is typically a distribution pole. Distribution poles are typically the smaller poles seen following roads or property lines through subdivisions and have connections directly to homes or businesses.
Where do I find Duke Energy transmission structure numbers?
All Duke Energy transmission structure numbers are typically located three-quarters of the way up the pole or on one of the legs of the tower.
Are there transmission right of way uses that are prohibited?
Yes, please refer to the Duke Energy Transmission Right-of-Way Guidelines/Restrictions.
What can I do in a transmission right of way?
After I submit activities, construction or landscaping plans, what type of authorization will I receive for the use of a Duke Energy easement?
You will receive a form of written authorization. The format of the written authorization will depend upon the specific requested use of a Duke Energy right-of-way.
Where can recorded transmission easement documents be found?
Transmission easement documents can be located in their respective county’s deeds and records department.