Environmental Efforts

Forestry Services
Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
  1. Why are trees near electrical lines pruned or removed?
    Trees near electrical lines must be pruned or removed to alleviate safety hazards and improve service reliability. Falling trees or debris from trees cause outages and create dangerous situations when they knock down electric lines. Trees near electric lines also pose a danger to anyone who might climb them. Tall-growing trees should be planted at least 20 feet away from electric lines.
  2. Can I prune trees near electric lines myself or hire a tree service to do it?
    To work safely near electric conductors, you or your tree service must be line clearance-certified. Specialized equipment, training and testing are required for certification. If you, your equipment or the branches you touch come into contact with an energized conductor, you can be seriously injured. If you chose to work on your own trees, LOOK UP BEFORE YOU PRUNE and check for nearby electric conductors.
  3. How much will this cost me?
    Cost is covered in electric rates paid. No additional charges apply.
  4. Why do you prune only one side of some trees? Doesn't that throw them off balance?
    Trees are balanced and anchored by extensive root systems that spread out just below the soil's surface. We prune only what is necessary for electric safety and reliability. Removing healthy limbs from a tree's opposite side to balance looks may compromise the tree's health and make them hazardous.
  5. What is natural pruning?
    Natural pruning is the removal of a limb at the point where it grows from either another limb or the tree's trunk. A cut made at this point, called a node, will seal naturally and help prevent decay. It is important to the health of the tree that the final pruning cut is made at a node, which may sometimes be far away from electric lines, rather than leaving a stubbed-off limb. Stubbed-off limbs do not seal, which allows decay. These limbs either die back or produce rapidly growing watersprouts. Watersprouts can increase tree height and easily break during wind and ice storms. Natural pruning methods produce healthier trees that require less frequent pruning.
  6. Why are some trees pruned more than others?
    The amount of pruning needed depends on two things – the type of electric lines and the type of tree. Transmission and distribution lines need the most clearance. Tree contacts with these lines are serious safety hazards and can cause major electric service outages. Service lines can withstand minor contact with trees; however, they must have a clear path to a home. Factors associated with the type of tree that determine the amount of pruning needed include a tree's movement in windy conditions and a branch structure that allows it to be climbed. Different trees have different branching patterns and growth rates. Fast-growing trees like silver maples and Siberian elms can have weak, poorly connected limbs that split during wind and ice storms. Slow-growing trees and those with strong branch connections may not need to be pruned as much.
  7. Will you trim or remove trees located near a home's service line?
    Minor pruning may be performed around service drops when crews are in the area pruning trees located near main lines. Branches that could rub against and damage a home's electric service line are removed. Major work, such as tree removal, must be performed by you or your contractor and requires disconnection of electric service to make the situation electrically safe. This free service is available Monday through Friday and must be requested at least two working days in advance.

  8. What trees should be avoided when planting near electric lines?
    Trees that are easy to climb and fast-growing trees with weak branching patterns should not be planted near electric lines. Pines, especially white pine, are among the easiest trees to climb. Siberian elm, weeping willow and silver maple tend to have tight crotches that split easily under a heavy water or snow load or during high winds.
  9. What is the practice on removal of debris from tree work?
    Crews remove tree debris created during regular maintenance pruning. Mulch and wood is left, if requested. For regular maintenance and tree removal, brush is chipped, wood is cut to manageable lengths for your use or disposal, and the stump is cut as close to the ground as possible and treated to prevent regrowth. If dead or dying trees are removed, the tree is put on the ground, and all debris is left. When you or your tree service requests assistance, we will make the situation electrically safe, leaving all debris. When clearing storm-damaged or failed limbs from electric lines, we make the situation electrically safe, leaving all debris. These guidelines apply to work performed by us at no charge to you.
  10. How will I know if tree pruning is planned for my area?
    Mailings typically are sent to customers approximately three weeks in advance of routine maintenance and trimming to be performed in their area. Customers also may receive an automated phone call closer to the scheduled work date. This procedure does not apply to emergency trimming performed in an effort to restore service after a storm.
  11. Are utility representatives or their tree trimmers allowed to enter my property without my permission?
    Utility representatives or contractors may enter a property to trim branches touching or close to electric lines. Utility companies have this right through electric tariffs or easements. An easement essentially is permission for the utility to maintain its power lines on a customer's property. Easements are filed with the County Recorder's office, and copies typically are kept on file at the utility.
  12. There are no overhead power lines in my neighborhood. Do I still need to think about where to plant a tree?
    Yes. If there are no overhead power lines in your neighborhood, you may have a green metal utility box mounted on a small concrete or fiberglass pad in your yard. Crews need access to the inside of the box in order to repair and maintain underground electric facilities. Don't plant shrubs or trees, put in a rock garden or build a fence within 10 feet of the access door or within three feet of the remaining sides.

    If obstructions are too close to the box, they may be damaged when crews open it or make repairs to underground facilities. If you choose to landscape near this box, it is imperative to CALL 811 BEFORE YOU DIG.
  13. Can trees be planted under electric lines?
    High voltage transmission line easements normally do not allow planting of trees under or near the wires. Any tree that matures at 20 feet in height or less in its natural form can be planted under power lines that directly serve residential and business customers.
  14. What do you do with the wood chips?
    Line clearance tree crews, working throughout the company's service territory, generate more than 2 million cubic feet of mulch each year. And we give it all away. Home owners, tree nurseries, schools and parks take most of it. They use it for tree plantings, weed control, moisture retention, padding for playground equipment and nature trails.

    Mulch is given away in full loads only, and is not store-quality. A full load consists of a minimum of 7 cubic yards up to 13.5 cubic yards of mulch, depending on the equipment being utilized. The contractor will specify the amount available prior to delivering. During winter, the mulch primarily consists of wood chips and occasional evergreen needles. During summer, leaves are mixed in with the chips, making an excellent source of organic material.

    There is no list kept for delivering mulch. Orders are given to crews with instructions to dump at the nearest address to the work site in order to reduce our costs. Wood chips are not normally available in the Quad Cities area; tree debris is taken directly to a recycling center without chipping it on-site. There are central dumping sites in some of the metro areas across the company where customers can go for mulch. Des Moines and Waterloo have sites near or in service centers that customers can access.

    Wood Chip/Mulch Dump Sites

    Delaware Service Center
    4845 Northeast 22nd
    Des Moines, Iowa
    Directions: At the northeast corner of the parking lot.

    Waterloo Office and Service Center
    260 Fairview Avenue
    Waterloo, Iowa
    Directions: South side of building.