Work Planning in Response to Beetle Outbreak

Davey Resource Group (DRG) consulting utility foresters provided Arizona Public Service (APS) with expertise and resources needed to help respond to an increased workload caused by the Western bark beetle outbreak.

According the Western Bark Beetle Report by the USDS Forest Service, drought conditions and the beetle attacks caused high mortalities of ponderosa and coulter pines as small as 6 inches in diameter. This led to an overall and rapid decline in forest health throughout the West and an increase in hazard trees on and off the utility right-of-way. These dead and dying trees, along with routine right-of-way issues, posed additional challenges to APS's utility vegetation managers.

Members were selected for this project based on experience with other utility vegetation management programs and their ability to identify hazard trees. They also were required to be ISA certified arborists. While working specifically to identify and mitigate the safety concerns created by the beetle outbreak, they also inspected and identified trees surrounding APS lines for routine line clearance. When trees that threatened electrical service reliability were identified, the foresters worked with property owners to develop solutions that benefited both APS and the customer.

DRG foresters also worked with line clearance contractors to develop work packages that ensured that crews and equipment were cost efficient while working in the rural mountain region. Overall, they helped APS manage the increased work load and accelerated maintenance cycles the beetle outbreak caused by identifying and mitigating thousands of hazard trees throughout Northern Arizona.

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