Spring is here, and that means trees will soon be filling out with green leaves and friendly critters. While trees serve as the scenic backdrop of our state, they also account for 50% of the time our customers spend without power. Tree trimming is an effective way to help ensure your power stays on, especially during extreme weather.   

We understand trees have a special meaning to many of our customers, and we take the value of your trees into account when planning our tree trimming work. The DTE tree trimming program is designed to maintain the beauty and integrity of trees, while still trimming branches away from power lines. Learn more about how and why we trim trees. 

We’re committed to working with our customers throughout the tree trim process, and your questions are important to us. Here are the answers to our most asked tree trimming questions.  

Q: If DTE just trimmed trees in my neighborhood, why did my power still go out? 

Outages may be caused by factors like extreme temperatures, animals, lightning, ice, public interference or an equipment problem. It is still possible that a tree-related outage may occur after tree trimming. Healthy trees or trees outside of our specification (further away from our power lines) may fail unexpectedly. Please keep in mind that a tree several houses, blocks or miles away from you may be the cause of your outage. Your service drop, or the line that runs from the utility pole to your home, also could be the cause of your power outage. Learn more about causes of power outages. 

Q: Does DTE trim around my service drop? 

No, typically DTE does not trim around the service drop, or the line that runs from the utility pole to your home. Your service drop is your personal connection to the power grid. DTE only maintains vegetation around the pole-to-pole wires. Keeping branches and other brush away from your service drop is the homeowner’s responsibility and can prevent an outage or other electrical problems. Read more about maintaining your service drop. 

Q: Why wasn’t I notified before trees were trimmed near my residence? 

For scheduled preventative maintenance, we notify customers via letter and automated phone call before tree trimming occurs in their immediate area. Homeowners with tree work needed on their property are contacted by a DTE tree trimming representative to discuss the work. If the homeowner is not available, a “Tree Work Scheduled” door card will be left with contact information for the homeowner to call and speak to a representative before tree work begins. In some instances, unplanned or emergent tree trimming occurs without prior notification due to an outage or public safety hazard.  

Q: How does DTE determine what areas to trim? 

DTE considers outages and time since last trimmed when determining which areas to trim each year. This strategy helps improve the safety and reliability of the electrical system. We actively monitor our electrical system to know what areas need trimming. We also watch to see if we need to increase the number of tree trim crews to provide the best electric service possible.  

Q: What are the markers on the trees, and what do they represent? 

If a tree poses a serious hazard to nearby power lines, and/or if trimming will damage the tree’s health, it may need to be removed. These trees are marked with two white dots. Once a tree removal permit is signed, the tree is marked with a white “X” indicating it is ready for removal. Our tree experts examine all options before removing trees that pose a threat to the safety and reliability of our equipment. 

Remember, you don’t have to choose between reliable service and beautiful trees. By planting the the Right Tree, Right Place, you can have both. Review the list of Trees Suitable for Planting in Southeast Michigan to help you decide where and what to plant.  

Q: Why do my trees look misshapen after trimming? 

Our tree trimming program follows industry standards and provides a balanced solution between safe and reliable power and tree health/aesthetics. Crews adhere to a tree trimming specification to clear around DTE electrical equipment, depending on the species of the tree and voltage of the power lines. Initial trimming can look more drastic, but most trees typically fill back in within a growing season or two. Higher voltage lines and fast-growing species require more clearance.   

Q: Why don’t you take the wood after you cut it? 

DTE follows a debris policy that allows crews to move quickly and efficiently through an area while providing the opportunity for homeowners to use the trimmed debris from their property as firewood. This policy allows us to keep customer rates affordable, while maintaining and improving reliability.  

Q: Does DTE require different permissions to trim or remove trees on private versus public property? 

Many municipalities and publicly owned lands may have additional regulations limiting how trees can be managed on these properties. DTE partners with regional governments to ensure we can accomplish our necessary tree maintenance, while also adhering to the relevant laws. We are always happy to work with our partners, both public and private, to ensure the best trimming results are achieved.  

Q: I’ve heard that oaks shouldn’t be trimmed in the summer due to the threat of oak wilt. What measures are DTE taking to protect our oak trees? 

We take every precaution possible to prevent the spread of oak wilt disease within the communities we serve. Whether or not oaks are trimmed in the summer months depends on the purpose of the work. In areas where oak wilt has been reported, we suspend all scheduled tree maintenance on all oak species from April 15 through Aug. 1. In cases of an emergency, such as a threat to power reliability, a threat to public safety or prior to overhead construction work, trimming commences during these months. All cuts are sealed with latex-based paint to prevent the entry of the pathogen. We then clean our tools with disinfectant between sites to reduce the risk of transmission.  

Q: What is being done to protect elm trees from Dutch elm disease? 

Dutch elm disease is a well-established forest pathogen in Michigan that negatively impacts native species of elm. Our tree maintenance program includes a process where we leave a door hanger at each property that has trimming work scheduled. If you have concerns about elms on your property, please call the phone number listed on the door hanger to speak to a representative before trimming begins, so we can take extra precautions to protect your trees.  

Q: What is an animal intrusion, and what does it have to do with tree-related outages? 

It is anytime a small animal or bird interferes with our electrical equipment. It’s more common with overhead transformers, but on rare occasions, we see them at substations, which can be more catastrophic. That is part of why tree trimming around our DTE equipment is so critical. Trees can be used by small animals as an expressway up, over and onto our equipment. We want to see less animal encounters and increased power reliability for our customers.    

We take measures to prevent this with animal barrier covers over the transformer connections and wiring. Plus, we make sure there are no fruit bearing trees adjacent to our substation properties that might entice small animals and birds, etc. Still, a curious critter can cause a lot of problems.  

Still more questions? Visit our tree trimming webpage.