Vegetation Management Guidelines

View RPU's real-time tree trimming map

Why does RPU clear vegetation away from overhead lines and infrastructure?

  • RPU spends nearly $1 million annually to proactively trim trees and vegetation for electric reliability and to ensure safety for RPU lineworkers and customers. In addition, RPU has a full time arborist on staff to oversee these efforts and to provide expert tree guidance and direction.

Clearance Requirements

Tree trimming clearances vary depending on the type of tree, accessibility to the location (backyards), voltage near the trees, and proximity of tree branches to overhead lines.

  • Clearance- RPU maintains a minimum 10 foot clearance around poles for trees and shrubs.
  • Overhang Removal - For large trees with branches hanging over power lines, we require at least 15 feet of clearance above lower voltage lines. With higher voltage lines, no overhang is allowed.
    • “V” Pruning - When utility wires run through a tree, a v-cut is made to allow branches on either side of the wire to grow naturally.
    • Side Pruning - Interfering side branches are removed from trees adjacent to power lines.
    • Power lines at the side and rear of a customer's property that are not accessible from a paved or gravel surface require special clearances of five to 10 feet on each side of the pole.
    • In unmaintained areas, vegetation within the clearance distance will be removed. It may be necessary to remove vegetation outside of the clearance area, depending on the species and amount of trimming required. Additionally, no vines are allowed to grow on RPU poles or equipment.
  • Padmount Transformers- a 12 foot minimum clearance is required in front of the transformer door so that crews can access the equipment and make repairs. Additionally, a three foot clearance is required around the other sides of the transformer.
  • Tree Line USA Standards- When RPU clears the distribution lines, we use national norms (Tree Line USA) for tree trimming and trim for a three-year growth cycle that is species-specific for the kinds of trees that are in the public right-of-way. Fast-growing softwood trees will be cut back more than slow-growing hardwood trees. 
  • Right-of-Way- RPU clears vegetation from transmission/distribution right-of-way based on a growth schedule and available time. Right-of-way growth is not meant for privacy or yard barrier purposes. When it is cleared or trimmed, it is NOT RPU’s responsibility to add or return privacy barriers such as additional trees, bushes, or fencing. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their property privacy.
  • Tree Health- RPU will not top or round over trees that are directly under electrical lines. This is harmful to the health of the tree.
  • Customer Communications- Communication efforts will be made prior to scheduled tree trimming work and day-of the work.

Tree Debris Removal  

  • Routine Trimming - During normal trimming projects, RPU and RPU contractors will remove and/or chip the tree limbs and debris from the customer's property.
  • Emergency Trimming - RPU does not remove tree debris caused by a storm or emergency situation. Crews may need to cut broken and uprooted trees to make repairs to RPU infrastructure, but it is the responsibility of the property owner to remove the tree debris.
    • Trees considered “hazard trees” identified during an emergency situation, may require trimming or removal during an emergency situation. Hazard trees require trimming or removal to ensure safety for property owner and RPU crews. Tree debris removal of the hazard tree(s) are the responsibility of the property owner.

Partners in Planting

RPU has partnered with The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Line USA® program, which recognizes public and private utilities that demonstrate practices that protect and enhance America's urban forests. This program promotes the dual goals of safe, reliable electric service and abundant, healthy trees across utility service areas.

RPU has also partnered with local nurseries, Jim Whiting Nursery & Garden Center and Sargent’s Gardens to give you a $10 discount on the purchase of qualifying deciduous shade trees and with local arborist, Maier Tree & Lawn, for $20 off a tree service. Click here to download our Partners in Planting brochure.

$20 Arborist Coupon
Click image to download coupon Click image to download coupon


Now we want to partner with YOU to plant trees all over Rochester!

Green Means Clean!

Why is RPU forming so many partnerships to “green-up” Rochester? Because planting trees makes sense for your pocketbook, your family’s health, and the future of the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling. Not only that, trees clean the environment. One acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people for one year and absorbs as much CO2 as a car produces by driving 26,000 miles.

Where to Plant a Tree

Follow these basic tree-planting rules and you will save energy and money on your utility bills.

Plant deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees on the south and west sides of your home to:

  • Provide energy saving shade and save on your utility bill.
  • Reduce the demand on your air-conditioning system in summer months.
  • Allow sunshine to warm your home during winter months.

Plant evergreen trees on the north and west sides of your home to:

  • Create a windbreak that blocks cold winter winds.
  • Save energy and money on your heating bill.
  • Ease the load on your home heating system.

Before you plant, remember to:

Celebrate Arbor Day

Arbor Day was founded by J. Sterling Morton, an early pioneer to Nebraska who loved nature and saw the need for planting trees in the vast prairies of the state. Arbor Day was first observed in 1872, when more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska. Arbor Day is now observed throughout the nation and the world. For more information about Arbor Day, visit the National Arbor Day Foundation website at

Each year, beginning on the last Friday in April, RPU encourages the Rochester community to plant trees in celebration of Arbor Day. Click here for details on our Arbor Day events and plan to have your family attend!