Right of Way Management Program

Tree Trimming Program


Trees poise an ever present threat to the electric system. For that reason, the Utility maintains an active and aggressive, year-round tree trimming program to ensure reliable power. Answers to some “Frequently Asked Questions” about the utility’s tree trimming program are included in the FAQ link.

Method of Trimming:
The Utility uses only “lateral” or “natural” tree trimming methods. In this method, limbs and/or branches will be cut flush with the supporting trunk or limb so that no stub is left. Studies have shown that lateral trimming is much healthier for trees than “topping” or “rounding over” methods. The Utility will not “top” a tree unless it is absolutely necessary. The Utility will not “round” trees.

The  National Arbor Day FoundationInternational Society of ArboricultureTree Care Industry Association, and other professional trade organizations recommend lateral trimming. Although the appearance of the tree can be unusual after the initial trim, the appearance quickly improves with time and growing seasons.

The premises of the property owner will be left as neat as before the trimming. When at all possible, REU will notify property owners of planned trimming prior to the work.

Exceptions: During emergencies, such as when a tree has fallen and caused a power outage, Rockwood Electric Utility may not be able to notify the property owner. The Utility does not perform cleanup of trees that fall during severe weather.

Clearance Distances:
The Utility trims all trees to a minimum of ten feet from the primary (top) conductors. This results in a typical ground-to-sky right-of-way between 20’ and 30’ depending on whether the power distribution line is single- or three-phase. Trees that overhang the system are trimmed as high as the worker can reach with the equipment on site. Trees less than 6” diameter are generally removed except for ornamental or low-profile trees that are slow growing and are not a threat to the power system.

Tree Removal:
If a tree is obviously diseased, dying or dead, the Utility will generally remove the tree or trim it to the extent that it no longer is a threat to cause a power outage. The Utility makes every effort to contact the abutting landowner before removal. If the tree is on private property, the Utility will work with the property owner to safely remove the tree. The property owner may be required to perform the clean-up.

If a property owner has a tree that is dangerously close to power lines, the Utility will aid in the removal and/or trimming of that tree. This is done for safety reasons. Persons in this situation should contact the Utility for specific guidance or complete a Tree Removal Request Form.

Limbs on Service Drops:
The Utility does not maintain clearance on limbs on the service drop. The property owner is responsible for these trees. For your convenience and safety, the Utility will remove a service drop to allow an owner to trim or remove a tree adjacent to it. This service is provided during business hours only for no charge. Please contact the Utility for further information.

“Pruning Trees Near Electric Utility Lines”; A Field Pocket Guide for Qualified Line-Clearance Tree Workers; Dr. Alex Shigo; 1990.

ANSI A300 (Part 1) – 2001 Pruning; “American National Standard for Tree Care Operations – Tree, Shrub, and Other Woody Plant Maintenance – Standard Practices (Pruning)”


**Rockwood Electric Utility Contractor Prequalification Application for Right-of-Way Maintenance [ view document ]

**Rockwood Electric Utility Specifications and Contract Documents for Power Line Right of Way Clearance and Tree-Trimming; April 2019 [ click here to view and download document ]

* This document requires Adobe Reader which which can be downloaded by clicking here.

**NOTE: “View Document” and “Click here to view and download documents” links will only be active during our annual acceptance of tree trimming bid proposals.  Please contact our office via phone by calling 865-354-0514 for information on our annual tree trimming bid proposal process.

Herbicide Application Program


In order to maintain its objective to provide safe, reliable electric service at affordable rates, Rockwood Electric Utility (REU) has undertaken the application of herbicides to its right of way maintenance program system wide. The goal is to minimize the ever present threat that vegetation poises to the electric system by targeting and eliminating tree growth within the power line right-of-way to allow grasses, wildflowers, and low growing shrubs to take over this area.

Many of our neighboring utilities, as well as Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and other entities (e.g., railroads) have been practicing the application of herbicides for many years and are very happy with the long-term results. As a matter of fact, REU sought advice from Volunteer Energy Cooperative, Harriman Utility Board, LaFollette Utilities Board, and Plateau Electric Cooperative prior to undertaking this program. Each one confirmed that the results of adding herbicides to its right-of-way program increased the reliability of their electric system and improved long-term right-of-way management.

Each of these utilities counseled us that the first treatment would create a stark landscape or “brown out” that would be in sharp contrast to the surrounding greenery. However, with eventual changing colors of fall foliage and the arrival of winter, this appearance would be mitigated.

As always, these neighboring utilities told us the absolute truth. Oh! They were right. We were not completely prepared for this stark look along many roadways and within our easements.

We apologize for this temporary appearance and ask that you be patient over the next several weeks before fall, with the anticipation of a positive outcome with the arrival of spring. To help you understand what is involved in this program, we have provided answers to some Frequently Asked Questions in the FAQ link.