Trees are a valuable asset in commercial, private and public landscapes. They add beauty, help our environment and add value to the property. However, these same trees can be a major challenge for STEMC.

  • Trees are one of the significant causes of power outages in areas with overhead utility lines.
  • When trees come into contact with live wires they may become conductors of electricity, causing power outages or creating dangerous situations.

STEMC works hard to maintain its rights of way near overhead lines to provide safe and reliable electrical service. We do so for three reasons: 


Trees near power lines pose a threat to your home, your electric service, and your health. When trees contact high voltage lines and the right conditions are present, they may become conductors, carrying deadly electricity within the reach of your family and pets.

System Reliability

Seven of every ten power outages on STEMC’s system are the result of trees and other vegetation coming in contact with our lines. These outages are costly and inconvenient. And because our distribution lines are only a part of a larger system, the tree in your yard may create problems for hundreds or even thousands of people.

Economic Responsibility

Aside from safety and system reliability, STEMC has a financial responsibility to our members to weigh the financial impact of our vegetation management program. The return on the money we spend to control vegetation is significant. Our trimming and spraying programs help control line loss and outage management expenses. These savings translate into lower rates for our members.


For further information, please see our tree trimming and maintenance guides or our photo gallery

STEMC makes every effort to contact landowners before we come. A notice in the form of a post card will be mailed to the same address we are sending your bill to. The cooperative’s line clearance contractors will give a courtesy knock when arriving to work on residential property.

STEMC’s easements, recorded or prescriptive, grant the cooperative authority to trim trees without property-owner permission to provide for a safe and reliable electric system. However, the cooperative respects the property of its members and, as mentioned above, will attempt to notify the property owner of the need for tree work before trimming is done. In unusual or emergency situations, it may be necessary to trim trees without first notifying the property owner in order to restore service or eliminate safety hazards. STEMC recommends the removal of trees that will require extensive trimming on a regular basis.

STEMC operates and maintains over 3,800 miles of line to serve nearly 50,000 meters. Without sufficient clearance, outages and blinks would increase and the frequency of trimming would also increase. Your quality of service would suffer and maintenance costs would rise. STEMC’s contracted line clearance tree trimmers follow the guidelines of experts from the International Society of Arboriculture and the Arbor Day Foundation. The cooperative’s line clearance specifications were developed to accommodate a five-year trimming cycle for the trees indigenous to our area. In order to redirect the future growth of the tree so it will have plenty of room to move with natural wind sway and regrowth for the next five years, trees are trimmed back to a suitable lateral branch that is growing in a safe direction. If a proper lateral is not present, the next best pruning point is at the branch bark collar on the base of the tree. Other than some of the reasons mentioned above and other more obvious reasons, such as preventive reduction in outages, limbs touching and burning on electric lines is one of the principal wastes of electricity. Also, with lines clear from trees, the linemen have the necessary room to operate and restore power more quickly by not having to manipulate downed power lines from around and out of trees. The cooperative cannot storm-proof the lines but the fewer threats there are to overhead conductors; the sooner we can restore power after damage causing storms.

Yes. STEMC’s contracted herbicide applicators will treat the utility rights of ways every other year. If vegetation is small, some areas can be controlled through use of herbicides without first clearing, reducing the overall cost of maintenance. All herbicides used are approved for utility right-of-way use and are very safe, and the cooperative’s contracted herbicide applicators have the appropriate Tennessee licenses.

At the mature height, there should still be a 15' clearance from primary power lines and a 6’ clearance from low-voltage service lines. Please plant as far away as possible and never plant under power lines. For more information, see our planting guide.

Keep in mind there are buried electric lines around these devices. First call TN ONE CALL, 1-800-351-1111, or 811 to get underground lines marked. For your safety, please do not dig within 5' of marked lines and plant no closer than 10' from any device.

The following priority will be followed in determining when and where tree trimming will be done:

1. Reports of electrical outages caused by trees.

2. Areas where trees have been damaged by storms.

3. During the regular tree-trimming cycle.

4. Reports from customers indicating potential tree/power-line problems.

STEMC will assist property owners and/or their commercial contractors, at their request, with the trimming and removal of trees that are near the cooperative’s wires. Please call your local office to make an appointment. A representative of STEMC will make an inspection and explain to the property owner or contractor what we can do to assist.

The cooperative’s assistance may include: 

  • The temporary removal of electric wires that may be hazardous to workers. The cooperative will coordinate with the property owner or contractor the time the work can be done.
  • The trimming of the tree so that it can be safely removed or trimmed by the property owner or contractor. All wood will be left on the property owner’s premises. STEMC is not responsible for cutting wood to size or piling brush.

To request a service disconnect for non-electrical work, please complete and return this form to Forestry Supervisor Eric Tomlinson by email or deliver to your local office. Once complete, a representative will contact you to schedule disconnection. 

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For more information contact STEMC Utility Forester, Eric Tomlinson, by calling 731-585-0536 or via e-mail.