A helicopter operated by Oncor Electric’s vegetation management team surprised some residents on the north side of Palestine this week with loud, continuous thumping as it cleared limbs and branches from the company’s transmission line. The high-voltage lines, which run from rural to urban areas carrying large supplies of energy, need to be clear of vegetation.
The operation, known as aerial trimming, is limited to rural or remote areas. Some residents had never seen such an operation and were caught off-guard despite a door-to-door notification by Oncor representatives the week before.
Diane Mathis contacted the Herald-Press to inquire Wednesday morning. The roar began Tuesday afternoon near Anderson County Road 404 just north of town, she said, and resumed Wednesday morning around 8 a.m. “It sounds as loud as an army chopper,” Mathis said.
The sight was also strange. Mathis described a blue helicopter with a long rope or chain hanging down with a large object attached to the end. The chopper roamed back and forth for nearly an hour, picked up an item, and put it down.
The crews were clearing the transmission line’s right of way, and though some residents thought the helicopter appeared out of the blue, a spokesperson said the company notified the City of Palestine and Anderson County last week. “They’re working on the transmission right-of-way, which has to be clear,” said Kerri Dunn, a spokesperson for Oncor Electric.
At least two other residents, District 1 City Councilwoman Larissa Loveless and resident Ann Sokolowski, said they heard the helicopter’s thumping, but did not know the reason for the activity. Loveless contacted city hall, but no one there could explain what was happening.
Though an oddity in rural Anderson County, aerial trimming is an otherwise regular occurrence. The object hanging down from the chopper’s line is an electric saw, said Brenda Walker, Area Manager for Oncor in Palestine. She said arial trimming is a “widely-used procedure” that accounts for residents’ safety, as work does not occur within 200 feet of roadways or dwellings.
Use of aerial trimming avoids environmental damage that can occur with moving equipment on the ground. The procedure involves a team of 12 workers: a pilot, ground support staff, and additional brush clean up personnel.
“Aerial trimming it’s a safe, efficient, and environmentally-friendly tool,” Dunn said.
Crews expect to be finished with the Palestine area by the end of the week.
For information about Oncor’s aerial trimming, call 888-313-6862.
This story was updated to include statements from Oncor regarding its efforts to notify the public.