Planting the right tree in the right place

It happens more than we think. The new landscaping we plant today fits beautifully in its new location. And usually, we can enjoy a few good years of growth before we run into any complications. But if the wrong tree is planted in the wrong place, its branches and roots easily become entangled in utility lines.

Many power outages occur as uprooted trees or branches fall onto power lines. We all want to avoid this, so Avista must routinely trim or remove trees that become a risk of interrupting essential community services.

Trees are a precious resource that we work hard to protect. Whenever possible, Avista will trim the branches that are too close to power lines so that the tree can stay. However, some species grow too quickly, or after being trimmed multiple times, no longer look aesthetically pleasing.

Such is the case with five Red Oak trees outside of Spokane’s Ronald McDonald House.

“Red Oaks are beautiful trees, but they definitely won’t do well under your power lines,” said Ben Kappen, Avista’s Vegetation Management Program Administrator. “They can grow up to 70 feet tall and 45 feet wide. To keep that kind of growth out of the lines requires a lot of aggressive pruning that ultimately deforms the tree over time.”

So, Ben suggested replacing them with a utility-friendly species instead.

But the success of Avista’s vegetation management program relies heavily on partnerships with our customers and other stakeholders like the City of Spokane. Once it was determined that these trees were a risk of becoming an ongoing issue to reliability, Ben reached out to Urban Forester, Katie Kosanke, with the City of Spokane Parks Department for options.

Not only was the City more than happy to help, but Katie also donated the funding to replace the trees with five Forest Pansy Redbuds. Redbuds have that bright yellow/orange fall foliage we love with the bonus of magenta flowers in the spring and deep purple foliage throughout the summer – plenty of color for visitors of the Spokane Ronald McDonald House to enjoy.

Katie’s selection of tree is perfect for its new location, both now and well into the future. Any vegetation planted within 20 feet of a power pole should grow no taller than 25 feet. These Redbuds will be able to grow to their full potential – free from future trimmings.

Although we are not happy to see the Red Oaks go, replacing the trees was the best option for energy reliability and affordability. Plus, planting the right tree in the right place saves time, money, and the tree itself.

The project is expected to begin Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

Learn more about Right Tree Right Place and risk tree mitigation practices.

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  1. Community
  2. Environmental Stewardship