Trees and Right of Way Management
In order to provide safe, reliable electrical service, we maintain the rights-of-way under and around our power lines. Through an integrated vegetation management program, we maintain vegetation on more than 2,100 miles and 27,000 acres on transmission line rights of way. Our maintenance activities are necessary to provide reliable and economical service to all customers. The Mississippi Power vegetation management program involves mowing, cutting dangerous trees, pruning, applying herbicide and removing trees.
Tree limbs that come in contact with power lines are a major cause of electrical outages, and limbs that touch electric power lines can become energized or even break and fall, bringing the lines down with them. To reduce outages caused by tree contact, Mississippi Power prunes trees away from its power lines on a planned cycle.
Mississippi Power prunes trees to industry standards that were developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Mississippi Power uses only qualified line clearance companies that hire qualified workers to prune trees near our power lines. We remove incompatible trees from the easement area. These are trees or other types of vegetation which grow too tall to remain on the right-of-way, and could threaten the continued safe, reliable operation of the transmission line. Unfortunately, sometimes these trees were planted by property owners. They must be removed along with incompatible trees which may have seeded in naturally.
Generally, shrubs, vegetable gardens, grasses and low-growing trees which have a mature height of less than 10 feet are allowed on the easement area as long as they do not block or restrict access to the area, and are not planted in a location that could cause a threat to the continued safe, reliable operation of the transmission line.
Mississippi Power’s strategy to maintain power lines is based on a consistent, planned pruning cycle. These cycles can vary depending on tree species and growth rates. Typically, the main lines are addressed on an average of 2 to 4 years.
Danger Tree Cutting
"Danger trees" are trees off the easement that are dead, dying, diseased, severely leaning or growing in a manner/direction that could damage the transmission facilities when falling. All transmission lines are patrolled at least once a year by air or ground to find danger trees so that they may be removed safely.
We clear vegetation and redefine the easement width within the boundaries of the easement right of way with heavy-duty power equipment. Vegetation near structures, guy wires, fences, streams or other difficult-to-access areas may be cut using hand tools. A combination of mowing and herbicide is used to manage fast-growing, tall woody species. Only EPA approved herbicides are used, and the application crews are trained to identify and target the tall and fast-growing incompatible species on the right of way.
This cycle is a best practice to ensure a safe and reliable electric system, as well as the most economical. From an environmental perspective, this integrated vegetation management approach helps to promote and establish a stable, diverse, low-growing plant community on the right of way, which reduces the potential for soil erosion and is also extremely beneficial for wildlife.
We typically mow once every seven years. If you are the property owner, you can mow the right of way more often if you wish.
The pathways or property where the transmission lines are located are called rights of way. These rights-of-way are acquired by the company to ensure proper clearance for the power lines as well as provide access for maintenance and construction activities. Activities under or around power lines must be carefully controlled. The company must maintain zones or clear areas around facilities such as poles, wires and structures to perform maintenance work and for the safety of the public. Mississippi Power has easement rights to the majority of its utility corridors; in fact, very few miles of transmission rights of way are company-owned
Acceptable Use vs. Encroachment
Certain uses of Mississippi Power easements or property will not interfere with the transmission right of way as long as standards of use are observed. Agricultural, horticultural or grazing activities are authorized by the underlying property owner, but will be monitored by our crews. These uses do not require a written agreement except when they are proposed on property owned by the company in fee.
An encroachment of Mississippi Power's right of way is any use or activity within the transmission right of way that restricts (in any way) the full use or purpose for which the right of way was established.
Planting Within an Easement
Mississippi Power has determined specific trees and ornamentals acceptable for planting within the easement. In order to qualify for consideration, these trees must be planted in a landscaped area and must not exceed 10 feet upon maturity. Here is a guide to help you in choosing and placing trees properly.
Use of Easements
Mississippi Power will accommodate reasonable uses of our easements and fee property. Uses that interfere with, obstruct, restrict or endanger the use of our rights of way, fee property and transmission facilities will not be permitted in order to preserve our right to construct, replace, operate, maintain, reconstruct and access power and communication lines in a safe and timely manner.
The following are examples of uses that are not permissible:
- Fueling or permanent storage of fuel facilities
- Use as a runway for landing and takeoff of any aviation equipment
- Swimming pools
- Signboards exceeding 15 feet in height
- Permanent structures of any kind
- Septic tanks
- House trailers
- Dumps, junkyards, garbage receptacles, recycling centers or solid waste burial
- Outdoor lighting not owned/maintained by an electrical utility
The application process for an encroachment agreement to permit activity may be initiated by applying online.
Get in touch about any questions or issues related to trees and rights of way management.
How does Mississippi Power have the right to access my property?
Mississippi Power has a duty and obligation to maintain the electric facilities to provide safe and reliable electric service, as well as the right to ingress and egress private property. The Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) sets the rules by which Mississippi Power is allowed to operate. These rules are set forth in the RULES GOVERNING ELECTRIC SERVICE for Mississippi Power.
The Rules Governing Electric Service specify provisions allowing Mississippi Power access to our facilities on private property for purpose of maintaining service to our customers. Preventing vegetation from contacting our energized conductors plays a large part in maintaining safe and reliable service. Our vegetation crews must, and will, respect private property and will leave it in the same condition as when they arrived.
How much will be pruned from my trees?
Our contractors are trained to look at and consider such things as: tree species, growth rates, tree health, and the relative location to the power lines involved before pruning. We may remove entire branches that are growing toward the lines, or branches that, when cut, would re-sprout and grow toward the lines. Branches growing away from power lines are usually not removed.
In order to prevent vegetation re-growth from contacting our facilities during the cycle, Mississippi Power’s standard clearance is 15 feet from the centerline of the circuit to the pruned vegetation. This is a standard clearance widely used by many other electric utilities.
Why can't Mississippi Power just prune the tops of trees down instead of removing them completely from the transmission rights of way?
In most cases, Mississippi Power transmission lines are built to a standard for reliability that allows for vegetation that reaches a maximum height of 10 feet to exist under the line and maintain proper clearance as defined by company, industry and regulatory standards. Topping of vegetation that can exceed 10 feet is only a short-term solution that results in a tree, or shrub, with more potential conflicts with the transmission line(s). In addition to utility conflicts, topping is not a professionally recognized method of tree pruning and promotes starvation, shock, insect, disease, weak branching, irregular growth and aesthetic problems that typically result in an undesirable or dead tree.
Is pruning healthy for the tree?
Any time a tree is wounded, the tree is placed under stress. Mississippi Power uses a technique called “directional pruning,” which can reduce the stress placed upon a tree. This technique is encouraged by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the International Society of Arboriculture and does not interfere with the tree’s ability to seal wounds, allowing the tree’s natural defense system to discourage pests and decay.
Can the crews prune other trees while they are here?
No. Crews are instructed to clear only those parts of trees which are/may interfere with Mississippi Power’s electric facilities. Please do not ask them to prune any other trees on your property.
Can I prune my trees myself?
Customers should not attempt to prune any vegetation growing near or on any overhead power line. In some cases it actually may be illegal to prune trees without the services of a certified line-clearance professional. Only specially-trained line clearing professionals should work around power lines.
Will you shape my tree?
No. The crews are directed to prune for clearance around the company’s electric facilities only. They will attempt to directionally prune branches to redirect future growth away from power lines.
How will I know when vegetation management crews will be in my neighborhood?
Approximately, 1-2 weeks before our pruning contractor moves into a new area, postcards are sent out to customers notifying them of pruning operations in the near future. If trees or vegetation on your property does require removal or pruning away from power lines, a contractor representative will contact you in person or will leave a door card one to four days before work is scheduled to begin.
Is there a charge for this service?
There are no additional charges. If you are approached by an agent of Mississippi Power requesting compensation, please contact our customer service center at 1-800-532-1502.
Does Mississippi Power remove the debris pruned from the tree?
When pruning is done as part of our scheduled maintenance program, debris is moved to the curb and the debris is removed by specialty crews, usually within the same week it was placed. However, debris generated during storm restoration will not be removed.
A tree is touching the power lines and “sparking.” Who do I call?
If you see a tree touching power lines and sparking or any other hazardous tree condition, contact Mississippi Power at 1-800-532-1502 to report the condition.
In the past, Mississippi Power approved trees and shrubs that are now being removed. Why has this changed?
Typically, easements state Mississippi Power has the right to maintain the rights-of-way free and clear of vegetation. Unless legally recorded otherwise, Mississippi Power reserves the right to require removal, at Mississippi Power's sole discretion, of plantings previously permitted. This type of change most likely would occur in response to revisions of electrical standards and/or regulations requiring modifications to acceptable vegetation clearance requirements to maintain safety and reliability of the transmission system.
Why doesn't Mississippi Power bury transmission lines to save trees and shrubs that grow taller than 10 feet in maximum height?
The burying of transmission lines is extremely expensive, in comparison to above-ground construction, and cost prohibitive to the ability of providing affordable electricity to customers. In addition to cost, underground transmission lines still require rights-of way that are free of shrubs and trees.
How can I tell where the edge of the right-of-way is on my property?
In a majority of the cases there will be an area that is cleared and on each side of the power lines you can see where the trees have been maintained by being trimmed. This will not tell you exactly where the right-of-way is but will give you an indication as to the approximate location of the right-of-way edge. You should review your property survey, as the right-of-way should be shown on the survey with measurements that you can use to better locate the right-of-way. The right-of-way specialist in your area can also assist you by marking the edge of the right-of-way on your property. The property owner should consult with a surveyor to accurately determine the edge of the right-of-way.
Are transmission lines insulated? Can I operate equipment near the lines?
Transmission lines are insulated only by air. Everyone should stay clear of all transmission wires. No equipment such as cotton or grain harvesters, dump trucks or crane booms should be raised near a transmission line. In addition, care should be taken to maintain a safe distance from electric wires when using backhoes, cranes, forklifts, pile drivers, well drilling rigs and other tall equipment.
If you have questions about clearance, including whether placing fill within the right-of-way would violate easement rights, please contact the right-of-way specialist for your area.
Is trail riding by off-road vehicles allowed on the right-of-way?
No. The use of off-road vehicles on the right-of-way is not permitted. This type of use causes erosion to the area, disturbances to the property owners and can destroy the access routes that the company uses to get to the poles and wires.