Avoiding Utility Conflicts

Evaluating Utilities & Easements for Tree Planting

Planting a tree without a plan that takes into account presence of utilities and easements can lead to problems such as interference with utilities and other infrastructure, increased time or financial investment on landscape maintenance, or even personal injury and property damage. Before taking steps to plant a tree, find out where your utilities are located. 

Overhead Utility Lines

Overhead utility lines include electric, phone, and cable. Trees that are planted to close to an overhead utility line could require pruning to maintain a safe distance between branches and the wires. Planting the right tree in the right place can prevent the need for this practice.

Planting Distance From Overhead Lines

Mature tree size influences how close a tree should be planted to an overhead line:
  • Large trees should be planted at least 40 feet from an overhead line.
  • Medium trees should be at least 30 feet from an overhead line.
  • Columnar trees with a narrow spread and a height over 20 feet should be planted at least 20 feet from overhead lines. Since the spread on these species is not broad enough to conflict with lines, height is generally not a concern.
  • Small trees should be 15 feet from an overhead line, unless they will be less than 20 feet tall at their mature height.
  • Trees with a mature height less than 20 feet are “utility compatible” and may be planted underneath overhead lines.

Underground Utility Lines

Underground utility lines Include service wires such as electric, cable, and phone, as well as gas lines, water lines, sanitary sewer, and other public infrastructure. Contact Okie 811 to locate underground lines and plant your tree at least five feet from any located utilities.

Planting Complications with Underground Lines

Planting too close to an underground utility could lead to:
  • Damage to the utility and personal liability
  • Future damage to or removal of your tree during utility maintenance
  • Personal injury

Private Easements

Also be sure to locate any private easements on your property plat. Even if a utility does not currently have infrastructure within a platted easement, there is a possibility that one day it will. It’s best to avoid planting trees within easements in order to avoid removal of a healthy tree in the future.

More Information

For more information about the importance of avoiding tree and utility conflicts, view the International Society of Arboriculture website.