Habitat Management

With more than 34,000 square miles in the APS service territory, land use and biodiversity play important roles in our operations. We ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems employing an integrated vegetation management (IVM) approach to habitat management.

The APS Forestry & Special Programs Department manages the vegetation growing around APS facilities and equipment—including substations, overhead power lines and poles—to ensure safe and reliable delivery of electricity. APS Forestry maintains more than 20,000 miles of overhead power lines throughout Arizona.

A variety of operations-related environmental programs are in place to effectively manage vegetation.

Integrated Vegetative Management

APS practices vegetation management through the Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) system. IVM allows us to implement optimal vegetation management methods for transmission rights-of-way and along our distribution lines, based on environmental impact and anticipated effectiveness combined with site characteristics and social, economic and land-use factors.

In 2017, 289 distribution feeders and 3,181 miles of distribution lines were cleared of any potentially hazardous vegetation. In addition, 80 transmission feeders and 1,853 miles of transmission lines were cleared. A total of 38,004 vegetation units were pruned, with 32,041 trees removed.

For more information, visit aps.com

Vegetation and Powerlines

Public safety and service reliability are top priorities at APS, and we work to ensure that trees are planted in locations compatible with overhead electric lines. When it is necessary to remove tall trees growing under or near power lines, in many circumstances, APS offers customers low-growing replacement trees.

In addition, we educate and encourage our communities to plant based on the standards established in our “Right Tree, Right Place” program. This program promotes safe tree planting near power lines. Landscaping companies and homeowners are encouraged to choose and plant trees for a lifetime of beauty, safety and energy efficiency. This program also supports the local plant nursery industry.

APS hosts Arbor Day celebrations at schools and municipal parks statewide. Events such as tree-planting ceremonies on school or park grounds help to educate the public about the importance of trees in the environment.

For more information, visit aps.com.

Wildlife and Rare Plant Protection Programs

Our Forestry & Special Programs Department has a dedicated staff of natural resource professionals, including foresters, arborists, biologists and archaeologists. They work to ensure we remain in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other applicable statutes and regulations.

APS conducts a comprehensive nest-management program to protect birds that build nests on electrical equipment. A utility pole nest platform that we developed can be installed in a safe place if nests pose a hazard for birds or electrical equipment.

We have implemented a wide range of programs for the protection of threatened and endangered plants and wildlife, partnering with federal agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arizona Game and Fish (AGFD) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Comprehensive analysis and consultation is conducted ensuring compliance with the Endangered Species Act, and conservation measures are implemented for the protection of threatened and endangered plants, wildlife and habitats. We also support local initiatives to protect sensitive wildlife and rare plants.

APS collaborates with numerous environmental and conservation organizations and agencies on public education and awareness programs, habitat-enhancement projects, biological assessments and species-conservation plans.

Fire Mitigation

Through proactive, sustainable fire-mitigation measures, we work to reduce the likelihood of fire caused by electrical equipment. These measures include the deployment of systems and technology such as expulsion-limiting fuses to minimize discharge, and detection systems that communicate when power is interrupted. A software program is used to help detect ground faults. Mobile technology, such as apps for reporting fires and clearing poles, allow us to be more proactive and nimble in our efforts.

We also work to mitigate the threat of fire to our transmission system. To reduce risk to our power lines and first responders working during wildfires, we make a priority of creating defensible space around equipment poles (DSAP). Our goal is to remove combustible material within a minimum of 10-foot radius around equipment poles. Our right-of-way, which is cleared of vegetation, is used by firefighters to stop, anchor and suppress wildfires. Since the year 2000, our rights-of-way have been used to suppress 37 large fires of 100 acres or more.

An extensive DSAP program has identified approximately 65,000 poles in urban areas that are being targeted for vegetative management and fire mitigation measures. Our goal is to treat all poles on a three-year cycle.

The effectiveness of our fire mitigation efforts is evident during events such as the Goodwin fire, which scorched 25,000 acres of the Prescott National Forest during the summer of 2017. APS crews worked with state and local officials to de-energize power lines and ensure the safety of homes and residents. As a result of our work to clear defensible space in our utility corridor, the fire was prevented from reaching many of our poles and damaging our lines—greatly approving our ability to maintain and quickly restore service after the fire was contained. Utility companies in other states have sought our expertise in fire mitigation and service restoration during events such as the wildfires that devastated Northern California in October 2017.

Other accomplishments for 2017 include the following:

  • 2 million gallons of water saved annually from our 100% non-water herbicide program.
  • 850 existing poles modified to meet avian protection standards.
  • APS was recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as recipient of the Tree Line USA Award for the 21st year.
  • APS is one of seven utility companies to maintain 5 years of accreditation from the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council in responsible right-of-way vegetation management.

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