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July 2017

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Georgia Transmission cleans up substations with Cleantraxx™

Just as with utility lines in rights-of-way, vegetation managers need to keep weeds, trees and brush away from the volatile equipment housed within utility substations. And while selective vegetation management is commonly practiced on rights-of-way, those responsible for substations must maintain a totally vegetation-free — or bareground — zone to prevent fire hazards, maintain access and ensure the transfer of electricity.

Georgia Transmission Corporation, based in Tucker, Georgia, manages over 3,300 miles of power lines and 700 substations. Its high-voltage power lines and substations keep 38 electric membership cooperatives and more than 4 million Georgians in business.

Strategic use of herbicides plays a critical role in the overall vegetation management program employed by Georgia Transmission, and provides the foundation for managing all its bareground use sites. And while it has established bareground programs in place, its vegetation managers aren’t afraid to try something new.

John Allen is an environmental specialist for Georgia Transmission. Starting this spray season, Allen has been overseeing the application of a new herbicide mix for bareground treatments in and around the substations he manages in southern Georgia.

Georgiainset “Our rep from Dow AgroSciences, Darrell (Russell), sold us on the idea of adding a new rotational mix that includes Cleantraxx herbicide into our bareground program,” says Allen. “He understands that we like to take a look at what’s new in the market, and then rely on him to help prescribe the right herbicide mixes, especially when introducing new herbicides.”

The new mix prescribed by Russell includes 56 ounces of Cleantraxx™ herbicide, 7 ounces of Milestone® specialty herbicide and 4 ounces of blue dye per acre.

Fresh rotation fights resistance
When treating bareground use sites, the introduction of effective new chemistry is particularly important. As history shows, it’s one of the first places weed resistance issues tend to develop, which is something Allen and his colleague want to avoid. “Adding a new mix that includes new modes of action into our bareground treatment rotation helps us maintain weed control because it fights weed resistance,” says Allen. Cleantraxx™ herbicide is a dual-action resistance management tool with pre- and early postemergence broadleaf weed control.

When mixed with Milestone® specialty herbicide, it provides a broad-spectrum total vegetation control tool, perfect as a rotational mix in a bareground program.

Allen uses contract applicators for herbicide treatments and maintenance mowing at his substations. Each season, herbicide treatments here are typically completed by the end of March, barring poor weather conditions. Georgia Transmission expects a year of residual control from its bareground treatments.

“Our contract applicator does good work for us, and they take the extra steps to make sure that the herbicide applications are as successful as possible,” says Allen. “Steps like using leaf blowers to clean the entire substation treatment area prior to spraying.”

Georgiainset2 While it might seem like a little thing, Allen has found that it makes a big difference. “We’ve seen that even a small pile of pine straw can impede the herbicide from reaching its target, and opens the door for species like pines to break out after treatment, which means re-treating it again,” says Allen.

Using a custom spray rig mounted on an ATV, herbicide applicators ride throughout the substation spraying, using a blue dye to clearly denote the areas already sprayed. Besides just the interior of the substation, applicators will treat the road leading into it, as well as an 8-foot perimeter of bare ground outside the fence line. They also treat larger brush and trees that grow too close, and will come back and spot spray to control any pines or brush that get missed by the initial application.

Initial results prove positive
In talking with his applicators, Allen is receiving positive feedback.

“So far in applying it, they’ve commented on how sticky it is,” says Allen. “They say it’s thick like molasses, and is heavier than previous mixes we’ve used, so they feel there’s less drift potential. It seems to stay where you put it down, which is what we want with bareground treatments. We don’t want it to move and kill grass or other desirable species that are beneficial to the area.”

Allen also has heard positive results from another area utility, after it put out similar treatments last season.

“I spoke with another local utility that used Cleantraxx and Milestone on a number of its substations last season, and were really pleased with the results,” says Allen. “Everything has been positive so far, and we’re excited to see what kind of control we get.”