Rights-of-way and reliability …

Jul 16, 2021

A route for reliability … The GRDA Vegetation Management Department works to keep rights-of-way (ROW), like this one, clear of vegetation and debris, to help ensure a clear path for the delivery of electricity, across GRDA’s 1,200 miles of high-voltage power lines (Lee Buchsbaum/LMB Photography).

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Energy Center.

Summertime means mowing time for most of us across Oklahoma, and it is certainly no different for the Grand River Dam Authority. However, one thing that is different is the amount of ground to cover. With over 1,200 miles of rights-of-way (ROW) located beneath its high voltage transmission lines in Oklahoma, GRDA has a lot of vegetation management responsibilities, especially this time of year.

The task of doing all that work falls to the GRDA Vegetation Management Department. In a typical season, it will clear 500 miles of ROW, beginning as soon as the weather permits and continuing through the summer growing season. In two-man specialized crews, the department tackles the work with tractors, spray rigs and other heavy equipment geared towards mowing and trimming.

Each crew member is certified and licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture as a “Pesticide Applicator” and they put that certification to the test battling the war on weeds beneath high voltage power lines. The work is critical to GRDA’s overall mission because a well-maintained ROW, and well-maintained substation sites not only cut down on the possibility of outages but it also allows for greater accessibility for GRDA’s power line maintenance crews. All the work done by the department is guided by regulations set forth by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Getting the job done requires a lot of knowledge, a steady hand and a good internal compass. After all, some of the ROW paths wind around, up and down hills and hollows and through some rugged country in parts of the state. Power lines do not always follow the simplest of paths, but rather go where the power is needed and that means often stretching across miles of this difficult terrain.

Like the work performed by other departments, the role of the Vegetation Management Department is a critical part of GRDA’s overall reliability mission.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.