Employee Spotlight: Don Bush
Don Bush is an operations superintendent. He has worked for KEC for 29 years.
What does a day look like for you as an operations superintendent at KEC?
In my role I oversee KEC’s line crews, any contract line crews and all vegetation management crews. I’m also responsible for crew and construction project scheduling. Each day I meet with the foremen to ensure that their projects are going smoothly and that they have the equipment and staffing needed.
What made you interested in line work? How did you train to prepare for work in this field?
My dad was a lineman and finished his career at Northern Lights in Sagle. Ever since I was a kid, this is what I wanted to do. After graduating high school, I started a power line clearance tree trimming apprenticeship and completed that as a journeyman tree trimmer. From there I went into a construction line apprenticeship and then worked as a journeyman lineman and foreman at KEC.
Tell us about KEC’s approach to vegetation management.
Trees are the number one cause of power outages and that’s why our right-of-way (ROW) or vegetation management program is such a critical component of maintaining the reliability of our system and preventing wildfires. KEC’s ROW program focuses on the identification and removal of hazardous trees as well as the pruning of vegetation that interferes with our distribution lines.
Our goal is to perform ROW trimming on each part of our system every seven years. The tree trimming cycle is selected to maintain required safety distances to power lines (any vegetation growth within 15 feet of overhead line conductors) with anticipated regrowth that will occur before the next trimming cycle. To meet our ROW goals, we currently have eight full-time contract crews working for us, an increase of five crews since the beginning of 2020. It’s also important to note that more than half of KEC power lines are underground and almost all newly constructed lines are put underground to help eliminate tree related power outages and mitigate risk of wildfires.
ROW crews trim and control vegetation for all overhead line segments working sequentially down the line, starting at the substation and moving down the spans to single lines. It is the member’s responsibility to maintain the service lines (pole to weatherhead). If scheduled, KEC crews can disconnect power to the service line so members may safely trim vegetation. Visit www.kec.com to learn more about which equipment KEC owns and which equipment is the member’s responsibility.
While KEC has the authority to cut trees that grow within the power line ROW, we do not have the authority to cut those growing outside the ROW. For context, our typical ROW is 30 feet wide with the power line in the middle of it. Before removing a tree growing outside our ROW which threatens our power lines, landowner permission is needed. KEC makes this easy for landowners. All they need to do is say ‘yes’ and the tree will be removed at no cost to them. Landowners who are unwilling to allow KEC to remove trees on their property which threaten our power lines may be notified in writing. Depending on fire risk and size of the debris, vegetation management crews will dispose of debris in one of the following ways: chipping into a truck or in place (live material only) or chopping and scattering around the property. Any debris too large to chip or impractical to chop will be left on site for member use.
Safety is always a priority. If you see any vegetation that you feel could imminently cause a fire, please contact us. If you have a question or concern about trees or vegetation management, please contact us at 208.292.3292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where is KEC conducting trimming in 2021?
Our goal is to trim 125 miles of line each year. Currently, we have crews working in Hayden moving down Lancaster Road toward Hayden Lake. In addition, we have crews finishing trimming work in the Harrison area and then moving to Twin Lakes.
What is the best part of your job?
My co-workers are the best part of the job. At KEC, we are very innovative, and it is a great feeling to know we are helping our membership.