JEA program offers free trimming of qualifying trees

JEA arborist explains how to identify trees posing potential electrical hazard

JEA crews trim several trees Monday
JEA crews trim several trees Monday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many Jacksonville residents are continuing to clean up storm debris from Hermine, Florida's first hurricane in more than a decade, but JEA crews work year-round to protect power lines form the threat of trees and falling tree limbs.

The utility has a program designed to prune problem limbs free of charge to those who qualify in order to maintain its power lines. 

News4Jax went out Monday with an arborist to learn more about the process and what JEA looks for when identifying trees and limbs that pose a potential electrical hazard.  

In the city's St. Nicholas neighborhood, JEA crews spotted limbs near wires. 

"This is a good reflection of what you'll find throughout Jacksonville," said Joe Anderson, a JEA forester. "Those wires within the tree canopies you see right there are not a great concern of ours because there's no electrical hazard. Those are communication lines, cable lines, AT&T lines."

Anderson said homeowners should make sure there are no limbs around the "service drop," the line that drops from the pole and services the home. He also said there should not be any strain or abrasion on the wire. 

"A generality is, the higher the wire, the higher the voltage. So a couple (of) good reference points would be the street lights. Generally, everything above the street light is part of your electrical distribution system and can potentially have an electrical hazard regarding trees," Anderson said. 

Anderson pointed out a tree in St. Nicholas that needed to be trimmed. 

"We don't like that right there. We're going to get a 10-foot clearance around that. And it's every 2½ years that we're going to come back and service this line," Anderson said.

IMAGES: JEA points out trees posing potential electrical hazard

Anderson also explained the odd C-shaped pruning jobs that JEA does.

"It's a technique known as directional pruning or natural target pruning. But what we'll do is, we'll cut the limbs to direct the growth away from the wire," Anderson said. 

He also said there are ways to keep tree limbs from threatening wires altogether.

"Plant the tree in the right place," Anderson said. "These are crepe myrtles. And behind us, we also have a Drake elm. These are low, not tall-growing trees, medium-size trees to low trees. These ones, you can grow underneath the overhead power lines."

In Riverside, Anderson found an example of how to let trees co-exist with wires and not be a problem. He also said JEA is able to maintain the historical appearance of the neighborhood and avoid the C-shaped look, like one tree canopy on Myrtle Street. 

"It's a balancing act. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don't," Anderson said. 

To help get it right, especially in historic neighborhoods like Riverside, JEA will talk to customers and work with them to make sure the pruning process looks good. 

JEA crews might even knock on residents' doors to give them a chance to express any concerns over how the tree will be pruned, Anderson said. 

"Communication is the big part of it. So when we come in and trim, we don't want to have it be a secret. We don't come in at night and we don't trim at night. We like to communicate to you that we're coming out to trim. People aren't going to remember the 2½  years at the end of a trim cycle," Anderson said. 

By trimming trees in neighborhoods across the city, JEA makes sure power doesn't go out in a storm because a tree limb fell on a power line. 

Anyone with questions about JEA's tree trimming program can call 904-665-6050.