Utility Sessions

(as of March 11, 2018)

Monday Afternoon


12:45 pm

Keith Pancake, ACRT Inc.
Keith Pancake was a certified arborist, competitive climber, and a father and husband to a growing family. The story will be a first-person account in which Keith reflects on performing recovery work in the wake of an extreme New England winter storm, and the incident that would lead to the loss of his arm, including the events that led to it—discussing the small, intangible things that can mean the difference between life-altering injury and going home safely each day.


1:30 pm
thriving compatible ROW vegetation.

Stan Vera-Art, Grow with Trees Company
The call is strengthening for the creation of pollinator corridors and enhancing ROW biodiversity through sustainable ROW maintenance activities. Increasingly, companies dealing with ROW vegetation are incorporating alternative management techniques to enhance desirable and compatible vegetation on their ROWs. During this talk, we will focus on long-term conservation planning through sustainable vegetation management, incorporation of biological and cultural IVM methods, and Holistic Management principles.


3:00 pm
overview of the new utility specialist certification study guide.

Randall H. Miller, CNUC and Geoff Kempter, Asplundh Tree Experts
The Utility Specialist is a credential offered for ISA Certified Arborists who specialize in utility arboriculture.  The Utility Specialist Certification Study Guide has not been updated since it was first published in 2002. Randall H. Miller (formerly with PacifiCorp, now with CNUC) and Geoff Kempter (with Asplundh) have written a new and updated study guide, which is currently in the final stages of editing and layout at ISA.  The book is thoroughly researched and referenced, and peer reviewed. This presentation provides an overview of the book, what it covers, in what ways it differs from the previous guide, how it should be used as preparation for the Utility Specialist exam, and its potential for use as a general reference for our industry.  Randy and Geoff will co-present, each focusing on the chapters they wrote, including Pruning, Safety, Vegetation Management, Electrical Knowledge, Program Management, Storm Preparation and Response, and Communications. Questions and discussion will be encouraged.


3:45 pm
Capital Window: IVM Techniques for Advancing Sustainable Rights-of-Way.

Bradley Mitchell, ACRT Inc.
This presentation will highlight Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) techniques designed to shift costs to the Capital Budget while leaving a low growth natural right of way (ROW) for utility maintenance. Through pictures and data presented, we will explore various methods currently being tested on the ONCOR Transmission System. Methods, types and application techniques of herbicide, calendar and construction windows, challenges and results will be explored and evaluated against standard practices alongside system costs.


4:30 pm
Integrated Remote Sensing for Distribution Vegetation Management.

Nick Day, ComEd
It has been established integrated remote sensing provides utilities with tools to support data-driven management decisions in transmission vegetation management but has yet to be proven on the distribution system. ComEd conducted a pilot study examining emerging technologies in LiDAR and hyperspectral systems to discover if they can provide comprehensive information on the state of vegetation and various distribution network assets. The ultimate goals examined included modified cycle trim planning, optimization of resource deployment, reliability improvements and quality control.

Tuesday Morning

8:30 am
reversing the effects of worker turnover through investment and collaboration.

Jim Downie, ECI Consulting and Will Nutter, Wright Tree Service
High tree contractor employee turnover rates continue to plague utility vegetation management (UVM) operations in many parts of North America.  Unhealthy worker turnover rates, particularly at the crew foremen level, can have significant negative impacts on many key components of UVM programs including worker safety, productivity, quality of work and customer relations.  Many utilities assume worker turnover is the contractor’s problem to solve.  However, the indirect “hidden” costs utilities incur related to the constant training and turnover of qualified line clearance tree workers can be significant.  This presentation will explore the results of a strategic sourcing initiative undertaken by a large investor owned utility which, at its core, involved partnering with its UVM contractors to jointly address these challenges to find win-win solutions.   The initiative was successful in justifying to utility executive leadership that investments in the contracted UVM workforce could lead to significant long-term cost savings and operational benefits, which were realized over the last two decades.  Current status of this model will also be discussed.


10:00 am
Only the Brave

Mike Neal, Mowbray Tree Service
This presentation will cover the interaction between the Fire Incident Command team and the APS restoration team.  The presenter will cover the incident which resulted in the loss of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot crew members followed by the restoration effort and APS’s Vegetation Management team’s community involvement.  This effort was to help residents who were affected by the fire by removing dead trees followed by planting replacement trees on their property.


10:45 am
Understanding the Cost of Deferred Maintenance.

Travis Rogers, Dow DuPont
Managing incompatible vegetation along utility rights-of-way corridors can be a costly and complex endeavor.  Work planning, budgeting, and resource planning are key factors vegetation managers must consider when creating, implementing, and maintaining a vegetation management (VM) program.  When these variables don’t align electric utilities often elect to defer routine maintenance with minimal consideration to the cost implications of such decisions.  A better understanding of the costs of deferred maintenance will enable vegetation managers to make better and more informed VM decisions.

Tuesday Afternoon

1:00 pm
Integrated approach for managing ROWS to MAINTAIN ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE.

Roy Van Houten, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc.
In a time of heightened environmental awareness, government oversight and community activism, ROW managers are facing an ever increasing burden to keeping electricity, natural gas and oil from production facilities to end users. Planning, both near and long term, is now more crucial than ever when it comes to ensuring that ROW management plans are in compliance with growing list of environmental requirements. This breakout will discuss integrated solutions to managing ROWs in a holistic approach that combines environmental awareness and stewardship, community engagement, IVM and technological tools.


1:45 am
Cooperative Electric Panel Discussion:  How four utilities are addressing four key aspects of Uvm in 2018.

Andy Olson, East Central Energy; Erica Lewis, North Georgia EMC; George Leader, Pedernales Electric Cooperative; and Michael Johnson, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation
Discussion of unique challenges we have encountered and solutions we have developed as electric distribution cooperative utilities. What steps can we take as co-op vegetation managers that will help increase safety (employee, contractor, public), reliability, member satisfaction, cost containment, while being mindful of environmental concerns and fire risk? How have we contributed to professionalism within the industry?


3:00 pm
driving successful vegetation management software implementations through cooperation and collaboration.

Brett Kasten, GeoDigital; Chris Kelly, Clearion Software; and Jeff Henry, GeoDigital
Over the past few years, a number of utilities have implemented various software applications to assist with their vegetation management planning, execution and reporting.  Due to the value that these software applications can bring, many other utilities are currently considering similar projects. During this panel presentation, leading vegetation software suppliers including Clearion and GeoDigital and technology consultant, Environmental Consultants will hold an open and transparent discussion on what it takes to successfully implement the software and business process change require to support and transform your vegetation management program.


3:45 pm
ivm to IMPROVE access, reliability, habitat, economics, and public relations.

Richard Johnstone, IVM Partners
This paper will present documented best IVM practices that meet safety and reliability needs of electric and natural gas utilities and highways while partnering with agencies, tribal nations, communities and universities to implement the federal strategy on pollinators to improve bird, bee, butterfly and other wildlife and endangered specie habitat and control invasive weeds, lower risk of wildfire, improve aesthetics, community relations and economics.


4:30 pm
PG&E’s Contractor Safety Corporate Contractor Safety Program: Our Journey and Path Forward

Collette Nida-Brown, PG&E
At Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), there is nothing more important than public, employee and contractor safety. In support of this commitment, PG&E has established an enterprise Contractor Safety Program to ensure that PG&E's contractors are providing safe, reliable and responsible work to all Lines of Business. This program outlines the minimum requirements for managing contractors and their sub- tier contractors. Contractors are held to strict PG&E safety pre-qualification criteria, which includes evaluating their injury rates, screening their fatality and OSHA citation history, reviewing any safety incidents that have affected the public, and ensuring that they have critical safety programs in place prior to beginning work. PG&E’s Corporate Contractor Safety team works closely with all Lines of Business to coach them on how to successfully implement the Contractor Safety Program within their organizations and to provide program compliance support through routine assessments.