Jaime Travers and Kevin S. Held
ST. LOUIS – For the past three decades, Ameren Missouri and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri have been educating the community for on proper landscaping around and under power lines.
Nick Henderson, head of vegetation management at Ameren Missouri, said they maintain 4,200-line miles a year, which is several hundred thousand trees trimmed annually. He wants their customers to be aware of utilities when looking to plant trees.
“Overhead line facilities, power poles, underground transformers, pad mount transformers, and things like that is, really, what we want to try to educate people on,” Henderson said. “Being aware of those utilities and not putting trees that are incompatible with them.”
Planting incompatible trees leads to issues with grid reliability, especially when storms roll through, and can also be dangerous.
“What we want to have our customers avoid is putting a tree that’s going to get up into the facilities. That’s a safety issue that can conduct electricity on a wet day, even on a normal day, down to the ground, so we want to avoid that,” Henderson said.
Meredith Perkins, executive director of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, said their partnership with Ameren is all about educating the public on their motto: “Right Tree, Right Place.”
“Helping people understand that their tree is going to grow to a maximum height and out of the 50 native trees and shrubs that we are growing here at our nursery, a great number of them would be perfect to be planted under those, and a great number of them aren’t perfect,” she said.
Perkins said trees can still be planted beneath powerlines. It’s not only about the right size, but also proper maintenance.
“Where we have overhead utility lines or, in a lot of our residential backyards, you know, we’re going to have to be managing landscape and utilities,” she said. “Healthy trees pruned appropriately are not the trees that are failing during storms. They’re not the trees that you’re hearing about on the news.”
And ultimately, Perkins said Forest ReLeaf of Missouri is in the business of planting trees for the right reasons.
“Whether that’s aesthetics, whether that’s storm mitigation, wildlife, or just, you know, the perfect fall color. So, we are privileged enough to have a lot of native trees in Missouri that can fit the bill for all those different purposes,” she said.