A helicopter with a hanging saw blade cuts hard-to-reach trees in Cowlitz County for the Cowlitz County Public Utilities District in July.
A staff shortage led the Cowlitz County Public Utilities District to trade human climbing teams for a saw-blade helicopter this summer.
Trees that encounter power lines for reasons such as strong winds or overgrowth can cause outages. Contractors are usually hired to climb trees to trim excess vegetation around the lines, but this summer the PUD deployed a one-man helicopter to do the job.
At the PUD meeting on September 14th, Gary Pardue, Operations Superintendent of Cowlitz PUD said that he had recently planned the organization’s first climbing crew since 2019. The delay caused the PUD to hire a service to trim approximately two miles around the power line from Castle Rock to Vader in Olequa this summer.
A roughly 20-foot ledge of 24-inch saw blades hung from a helicopter and cut an estimated 80 to 30-foot trees on July 27 and 28 to reach this “overland transmission line.”
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Dietz said trees are pruned every three years to prevent damage. Pardue said the plan is to trim all needed vegetation before winter, and trees are usually cut within 20 feet of lines.
Pardue said the helicopter service saved time and money. PUD contractor Asplundh Tree Expert estimated that it would take a climbing crew of roughly four to achieve what the helicopter did in two days, Pardue said. The PUD saved an estimated $ 288,000, he said, based on Asplundh’s estimates.