The U.S. Forest Service in Arizona is considering permitting Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service to manage vegetation with herbicides.
According to a report from the Arizona Daily Sun, the utilities have proposed to use herbicides in conjunction with existing methods of management, which includes mainly tree trimming. They are already allowed to use trimming in their own rights-of-way, which are on 27,214 acres of Forest Service land along their transmission and distribution lines.
Herbicides would be used to decrease the frequency, cost and duration of vegetation management. According to a Forest Service document, vegetation interference with power lines is one of the most common causes of power outages and in Arizona the 16,000-acre Gladiator Fire in 2012 was attributed to vegetation interference with power lines, the Daily Sun reported.
Public commenting on the proposal ended last week and the Forest Service will now use the comments to create various alternative actions and evaluate the environmental impact. The Forest Service can decide to allow the herbicide use, can decide that the potential environmental impacts warrant the preparation of a more in-depth environmental impact statement or could decide not to allow the use of herbicides for vegetation management, according to the Daily Sun.