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PSE hires contractor for tree trim in February

Puget Sound Energy has contracted Asplundh to trim trees along many of Bainbridge Island’s 83 miles of distribution lines, beginning in February for six or seven months.

A slight increase in the duration of power outages along PSE’s distribution lines indicated a need for the action, which last occurred five years ago.

But PSE spokeswoman Gretchen Aliabadi said the outage numbers “are pretty routine for the island.” The trimming cycle is usually four years for trees leaning on distribution lines, which typically have more outages than the main transmission lines but affect fewer people.

Aliabadi said the island represents “a big job for us” because many of its narrow roads are tightly lined by large conifers. Much of the work will be done on the south end of the island near the Winslow substation. Trees along Sportsman Club and the Murden Cove area also will be focal points, as will Port Madison.

“We haven’t had more than the usual amount of complaints,” she said. “Of course, the island has a history of outages, based on the number of trees and windstorms during the winter months. We try to remove dangerous trees between the (trimming) cycles when we become aware of them.”

The island has 14.5 miles of transmission lines and 261 miles of distribution lines, 145 of which are overhead.

While transmission lines seldom lose power, the duration of an outage is much longer than for distribution lines – sometimes lasting for days. The larger lines serve more people, including 4,300 households being served by the Winslow substation.

“While outages on the island may be high, she said, “PSE has a holistic approach to addressing the problem. If we cut back every two or three years, it’s not good for the trees. It’s a matter of balance. Obviously tree limbs don’t mix well with power lines, but Bainbridge is a special place and we want to keep the trees as healthy as possible.”

She said PSE’s approach included trimming and removing trees when necessary to make the right-of-way larger. It depends somewhat on access to private property. “It’s a balancing act because we want to lessen the number of outages while keeping the island’s trees healthy at the same time,” she said.

Underground lines are also part of the equation, but the expense involved means they are created only when they best serve the community, Aliabadi said.

“It’s four or five times more expensive than the overheads,” she said. “There’s also a large environmental impact on the land and the trees.”

She said it cost $1.17 million to put some distribution lines underground between Lofgren and High School roads, a distance of about 1.5 miles. She said PSE figures that underground lines cost between $800,000 and $1 million per mile.

At least two Asplundh crews will work eight-hour shifts, five days a week through August to trim tree limbs.

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