Trimming trees away from power lines — it's an ongoing battle, as New Jersey utilities work year-round to prevent mother nature from turning the lights off.

Public Service Electric and Gas spokeswoman Karen Johnson said her company has a regular tree maintenance schedule: "We will come through every four years in a town, and we will survey all of our electric lines, and we will trim away any tree branches that are coming near to those lines."

Johnson said PSE&G will trim all of the trees that are in the right-of-way that is generally between the sidewalk and the street.

But Johnson also said workers will cut back any tree the gets in their way of the lines at any time.

"Certainly if there are areas where a tree is growing perhaps a little bit faster than that, and we do need to take care of them, homeowners or municipalities can contact us, and we will come out there sooner," she said.

Jersey Central Power and Light said it checks every five years. But spokesman Scott Surgeoner said workers will cut back a tree or tree limb if anyone notices that it is threatening a line.

"There is not any science to it, other than we know that we can trim those trees to a certain height and a certain distance away from our distribution lines, and within five years it is time to trim again," he said.

"The more that we can do to keep trees away from our wires or our conductors, our poles, our transformers, the better it is reliability-wise," he said.

Surgeoner said JCP&L works with a number of towns to keep trees awa from the power lines, "however, we do not want anyone trimming around our wires. First and foremost, those wires are energized. The gentlemen that we have, the tree companies that we have trimming trees for us are trained on trimming trees around live wires. We do not want anyone else doing that work."

He also cautions again do-it-yourself tree-trimming by property owners: "Stay away from it and let the company take care of it."

According to Surgeoner, trees are the leading cause of power outages in New Jersey, "so the more that we can do to keep trees away from our wires or our conductors, our poles, our transformers, the better it is reliability-wise."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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