From Open Energy Information

Transmission Vegetation

Present, Potentially Affected

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates and provides energy transmission standards throughout the United States. The Electric Reliability Standard FAC-003-2 outlines tree and plant management regulations in and adjacent to the right-of-way (ROW). Management includes periodic trimming, clearing, and pruning techniques to ensure minimum clearance between power lines and vegetation to decrease blackouts. In addition to FERC regulations, each power company develops a vegetation management plan.

The Electric Reliability Standard FAC-003-2 pertains to: • High voltage (200kV+) transmission lines; • Case-by case 100-200kV transmission lines that have high steel towers or large wooden structures with multiple lines; and • Lower voltage (below 100kV) distribution lines. The state regulatory commission, in conjunction with FERC, controls these lines. They are operated between 4 kV-36kV and run through residential areas.

Landowner vegetation rights (including trees and shrubs), in respect to overhead power lines, are not established by the federal Commission or in the Reliability Standards. Local utilities and municipalities typically include these rights in the ROW attached to the property.


Vegetation Impacts & Mitigation

Vegetation refers to the trees, plants, and shrubs located in the ROW. Vegetation impacts soil volume, chemistry, texture, density, and wildlife food source. Certified botanists conduct surveys prior to transmission line development to assess the lasting effects of vegetation loss.

Transmission line construction and land maintenance activities require vegetation removal for surface disturbance and power line development. Typical mitigation measures include the following:


  • Replace any vegetation disbarred or displaced from landowner’s property.
  • Concentrate construction sites to minimize land surface disturbance.
  • Inventory tree and shrub location, amount cut, and species before clear cutting.
  • Replace all vegetation in windbreaks and shelterbelts. Take an inventory of the amount to be cut and what species make up the area.
  • When trimming or cutting vegetation outside of the permanent ROW, leave naturally occurring seed banks and root stocks intact.
  • Flag native vegetation that require protection.
  • Use cut or crush methods, opposed to blading, to enable vegetation regeneration and re-sprouting.
  • On steep slopes, use hydro seeding or hydro-mulching to re-seed areas.


  • Interim reclamation begins after tower pads construction in order to reduce erosion and unstable land, conduct shaping, contouring, and re-vegetation.
  • Seeding should occur between October-December to prepare for grass and forb species. Plant shrub species separately during the winter.
  • Use weed free seeds, soil, and mulch to mitigate invasive and noxious species.
  • Reduce soil impacts, by conducting drill and broadcast seeding, followed by disking or harrowing.
  • Native plants require the least amount of maintenance and mitigate invasive plant and animal species.
  • Close inactive access roads upon project phase completions.
  • Perform reclamation in accordance with lease stipulations.
  • Avoid reseeding in areas where soil conditions are inappropriate or where the adjacent, undisturbed land surface has little or no vegetation.
  • Reuse native soil material and organic matter (topsoil) salvaged from the site preparation operations as topdressing on berms and other areas requiring re-vegetation.
  • Weed management and concurrent reclamation minimizes invasive, nonnative species spread, which also prevents residual impacts to vegetation.


  • Save and store topsoils on an approved site in stockpiles for reclamation use.
  • In moist, clay soils, removing topsoils and vegetation decreases soil compaction during construction.
  • Ensure stockpiles do not exceed two feet in height to promote healthy ecosystems for organisms living in the soil. Cover the piles with plastic or canvas to mitigate wind erosion. To enable restoration, contour the stockpiles when placed atop filled areas.
  • Park all equipment and construction vehicles in areas with significantly less vegetation than the rest of the site.

Reserve Pits

  • To mitigate swampy vegetation habitats, maintain the reserve pit’s water level below rooted vegetation. This will also mitigate unwanted insects. Line the channel where discharge water flows into the reserve pit with crushed rock or horizontal piping to encourage aquatic vegetation, but discourage sediment.