Beaufort and Port Royal officials will be keeping an eye on their trees when trimming around electrical lines begins this month.
SCE&G will begin snipping around lines this winter and summer as part of its regular maintenance. Past pruning has raised residents' ire.
City of Beaufort landscape architect Liza Hill met with SCE&G officials Monday to settle plans and said cutting is expected to begin Jan. 21.
The electrical company uses two types of power lines -- high-voltage transmission and low-voltage distribution.
The transmission lines are on poles that typically are 85 to 105 feet tall, as required by the utility's agreement with the city. Those cables carry about 115,000 volts of electricity, Hill said.
The distribution lines are lower and bring power to individual businesses and homes. Those carry about 8,000 volts, Hill said.
The transmission lines are the focus of the winter cutting, which will take about four to six weeks, Hill said. Workers will begin in Pigeon Point, zigzag through the city's historic district and then loop through the Mossy Oaks and Port Royal areas.
Port Royal town manager Van Willis said he and Mayor Sam Murray were assured by SCE&G officials that a certified arborist would be available during trimming and that the town does not have many trees that will be affected because lines there are so high.
"They walked us through the standards they are using," Willis said. "We understand the importance of having the trees trimmed so people don't lose power."
Limbs must be cut 10 feet in all directions from distribution lines and 20 feet in all directions from transmission lines, Hill said. Without such clearance, fires can start if the lines arc.
The space also gives SCE&G access to the lines for repairs, spokeswoman Kim Asbill said. The company follows guidelines created by the American National Standards Institute and the Tree Care Industry Association, she said.
The intent is to trim only limbs growing toward the wires. Such cuts often produce a "V" shape that has alarmed residents.
"This practice protects the health of the tree and trains the tree's future growth away from the line and helps minimize overall maintenance costs and future trimming needs," Asbill wrote in an email.
Few of Beaufort's older live oaks will be affected by transmission-line trimming, Hill said, because they rarely grow above 50 feet. Taller species, such as water oaks, are more likely to be affected.
Hill, the city's Tree Board and SCE&G are examining the transmission lines and identifying areas of concern. Tree Board vice chairman and certified arborist Derrick Wells said he intends to monitor the cuts.
"We just need to make sure they are making good cuts, that they are not leaving stubs or overpruning the trees," he said. "They tend to be pretty heavy-handed and take off more than they need to."
The board determined that the intersection of Fripp and Hermitage streets, Pigeon Point and the area near the Beaufort Depot deserve close attention, Wells said.
Trimming around distribution lines in the neighborhoods west of Ribaut Road and in downtown Port Royal is expected to start in June and last through September, Asbill said. That cutting is expected to be more noticeable than the cuts around transmission lines, Hill said, as the tree canopy people see when they look up will be largely undisturbed by the winter trimming.