Within our distribution right-of-way there are approximately 91,630 trees that the co-op must manage with side trimming, and at times, removal when a tree is diseased or dying.
In 2005, due to the frequency of tree-related outages, Tideland decided to accelerate trimming operations, moving from a seven-year trim cycle to a five-year cycle. We spend nearly $1 million annually on tree trimming and mowing operations. That's why it is so important that Tideland members never plant a tree in or near our right-of-way. Today's small seedling could one day contribute to higher maintenance expenditures if we have to continuously trim and maintain that tree when it reaches maturity.
We are also responsible for mowing 810 uncultivated acres in our right-of-way. Mowing and vine removal is on a two-year cycle. Areas inaccessible to mowers are managed with herbicides.
While mowing visibly clears our right-of-way for a short period of time, it is not selective and removes desirable plants and degrades wildlife habitat. Mowing also leaves the underlying mature root system intact. That root system produces new growth that is even more dense, crowding out desirable plants, and can be several feet tall before the next mowing cycle. That causes considerable problems for line crews responding to outages, forcing them to leave trucks behind and traverse overgrown areas by foot. That in turn increases the risk of injury and delays outage restoration time.
To help address this problem, we have expanded our herbicide program along our right-of-way through low-volume application. The herbicide is applied by contractors wearing backpack containers using handheld wands to target the application on brush, saplings, vines and other woody stemmed species. Grasses, wildflowers and shrubs are left untouched.