NIPSCO trimming, replacing trees to prevent serious storm outages
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent May 21, 2013 12:40PM
Bill Selson uses a lift to clear trees and branches from NIPSCO lines in Crown Point Monday May 20, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
To get more information about NIPSCO’s tree partnerships program, click on tree pruning under the “Our Services” tab at www.nispco.com
Updated: June 23, 2013 6:08AM
Severe storms can wreak havoc when they touch down, as was the case Monday in Moore, Okla., where an E-5 tornado destroyed much of the town and left dozens dead or injured in its wake.
While the likelihood of a similarly devastating weather event here is minimal, storms of any size can be a danger and disrupt the lives of those affected, especially if there is a power outage.
Steps are continually being taken by Merrillville-based power provider Northern Indiana Public Service Co. to minimize potential weather-related power outages and keep residents safe from the dangers of downed power lines.
Workers can be seen out in force throughout NIPSCO’s service area trimming branches and in some cases removing entire trees as part of its Right Tree Right Place program, according to Kathleen Szot, external communications manager for NIPSCO.
“It’s not only an operations issue, it’s a safety hazard,” Szot said. One tree branch interfering with a power line can disrupt service to hundreds of customers. A downed power line can be deadly.
Right Tree Right Place is a 12 month a year operation designed to identify potentially hazardous trees near NIPSCO’s 2,797 miles of electric transmission lines and 7,840 miles of electric distribution lines, of which about 70.4 percent are above ground.
While removing branches and trees close to power lines helps prevent outages and minimize recovery time when there is a storm that creates a large amount of tree damage, Szot said downed power lines are dangerous and it is important for the company to minimize the chance that will occur.
Roger VanSchoyck, NIPSCO forester, coordinates the program and fields questions from residents regarding trees and their power lines. He said workers are always on the lookout for what he described as “hazardous trees” — those so large or close to main transmission lines that removal is the best bet.
Recently the company targeted a series of old growth trees in Crown Point’s second district along Harrington Avenue southwest of downtown. The company is working with homeowners and the city to remove and replace the trees in yards and city parkways. Those particular trees interfere with a main transmission line servicing both residents and an industrial park. Storm-related outages along the transmission line would affect a larger number of customers than a distribution line outage.
Regardless of whether a tree needs to be trimmed or replaced, no work is done without the permission of the landowner, be it a municipality or individual. VanSchoyck said the company works closely with landowners to ensure their wishes are met and the best possible outcome for NIPSCO is achieved.
Some trees may thrive and rebound in appearance after a trimming, while others, such as evergreens and pines, lose their aesthetic appeal after branches are removed. Many times, homeowners opt for replacements when they learn they have that option. A replacement tree can be one of any type of tree or shrub they choose and will be located where the property owner would like to see it.
“We probably have at least 60 different species of trees,” VanSchoyck said.
NIPSCO works with several nurseries throughout its service area to provide the trees, which are planted by NIPSCO contractors in the location selected by the property owner. Typically replacement trees are 8- to 12-feet tall and have a 2- to 3-inch trunk. Replacement trees are usually about 6 or 7 years old and established, not saplings.
“When we’re done we want our customers to be happy, our facility maintained and there not to be an outage,” VanSchoyck said.