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Rights of way – the cleared areas below and adjacent to power lines – might look simple, but they can be very complex. A dying tree on the edge of a right of way, for instance, could fall and knock out power to thousands. A new fence on a nearby driveway might seem benign until it prevents a utility crew from repairing an outage after a storm.
With some exceptions, these areas – corridors of about 25 to 180 feet – are private property where electric utilities have purchased easements, or rights, to use the property for specified purposes. Rights of way are kept clear of vegetation and other obstructions that could interfere with the construction, operation or maintenance of lines. Prior to making changes on land where there is an easement, property owners should check to ensure the land use is compatible with electric service. Land use issues are complex because maintenance and repair crews must have access to rights of way to do their work. Sufficient clearances from power lines – allowing for sag when lines are carrying maximum current -- must be maintained for operational and safety reasons. Guy wires, anchors and underground facilities must also be protected. These precautions reduce the risk of outages and blackouts and ensure quicker restoration of power following an outage.
As long as minimum clearances from poles and guy wires are maintained, most rights of way can be used for yards, gardens, pastures and farming. And with a written agreement with the affected utility, the land could possibly be used for recreational fields, streets, roads, driveways, parking lots, lakes, ponds, fences, drainage ditches, fills and grading. Prohibited uses generally include pools, aircraft runways and taxiways, permanent structures (including manufactured homes), septic tanks, dumps, junkyards, wells, signs taller than 10 feet, fueling or fuel storage facilities, garbage and recycling receptacles and outdoor lighting not owned by an electric utility. Lines and equipment of other utilities – including sewer, water, gas, electric distribution, telephone, cable TV and railroads – may be permitted under certain circumstances, and usually require a separate easement from the other utility. These are only examples. Please check with your utility to make sure your plans comply with the terms of your easement and the National Electric Safety Code.
To find out if a planned use of a right of way is acceptable, Georgia Transmission offers a simple right-of-way application. Just download the form, answering the questions and e-mail or mail it back. With this information, an agreement can be quickly drawn up in about 30 to 45 days.
To find out what types of vegetation should be planted in and around rights of way, please see our plantings brochure.
For questions about rights of way, please e-mail Jimmy Etheridge or call our Control Center at 1-800-241-5375.