Frequently Asked Questions
For questions not addressed here, refer to the TVA transmission line easement grant on your property, or contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team.
The most significant difference is volume—the difference between wholesale and retail. TVA’s transmission system moves power from the generating plants to your local power company. In turn, your local power company has a system of lower voltage distribution lines that moves the power from the substations to the individual homes, businesses and industry in your area. Many more people could be affected by damage to a transmission line than by damage to a distribution line.
TVA transmission lines are insulated only by air. Everyone should stay clear of all transmission wires. No equipment such as cotton or grain harvesters, dump trucks or crane booms should be raised near a transmission line. In addition, care should be taken to maintain a safe distance from electric wires when using backhoes, cranes, forklifts, pile-drivers, well drilling rigs and other tall equipment.
If you have questions about clearance, including whether placing fill within the right of way would violate TVA’s easement rights, please contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team.
Transmission Line Easements
Of TVA’s 16,185 miles of transmission line, about 13,000 are 161 kilovolts (kV) or higher. Although right of way widths can vary, generally:
- Most TVA transmission line rights of way are 75 to 200 feet wide. Rights of way for multiple transmission lines are generally wider.
- 500kV lines with two underbuilds commonly use a 200-foot right of way. (Underbuilds are transmission lines built under existing lines, using existing poles or structures as support.)
- 500kV lines with a single underbuild commonly use a 175- to 200-foot right of way.
- 230kV lines commonly use a 150-foot right of way.
- 161kV single- or double-circuit lines commonly use a 150-foot right of way.
- 69kV single-steel-pole lines commonly use a 75-foot right of way.
You can determine the width of the right of way from the easement document that is recorded in the county where your property is located. Most of the easements and rights of way for TVA’s transmission lines were acquired in the name of the United States and are entrusted to TVA. Older easements and rights of way may have been acquired by TVA’s predecessors and later transferred to the federal government for TVA’s use.
A property survey that you may have obtained when you bought your property also may show the width of the right of way; however, the easement document is the legally binding one. The easement document is based on the property boundaries as they existed at the time the document was signed, not where the property lines are now.
TVA began purchasing easements in 1933. If you are considering purchasing property near a transmission line, you should require a complete title search of at least 100 years. If a title search was not performed, you or your representative (surveyor or attorney) should search courthouse records. TVA easements generally remain in effect even if the land has been sold to a new property owner. Contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team if the search does not reveal any records for the transmission line on your property.
Landowners may use the right of way for any purpose that is not expressly prohibited by the easement document or does not unreasonably interfere with TVA’s easement rights. Examples of permissible uses include pasture, lawns, crops, and gardens. Driveways, parking lots and other improvements can also be acceptable if plans have been reviewed and approved by TVA. If you have a question about a proposed use of a right of way, please contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team.
TVA and its contractors are responsible only for repairing or paying for the repair of physical damage to land caused by TVA’s exercise of its easement rights. TVA is not responsible for erosion from other causes. TVA’s easement rights do not authorize it to take action against trespassers unless the trespassers’ actions interfere with those easement rights. Other trespassing issues are between the landowner and the trespasser.
Fences and gates are the responsibility of the property owner.
The flagging indicates that the transmission right of way has recently been selectively treated with EPA-approved herbicide. As the rights of way are treated each year, they are marked with biodegradable flagging. See additional information here.
Landowners are responsible for complying with city, county and subdivision regulations regarding maintenance of their land, including that within a right of way. TVA has the perpetual right under most easement documents to clear rights of way and keep them clear of trees, brush, buildings, structures and fire hazards. These rights were acquired to allow for the construction, operation, maintenance and rebuilding of transmission lines.
TVA does not clean up trees in unmaintained wooded areas on or near the right of way. TVA has made it a practice, however, to clean up removed trees in residential areas, crop fields and pasture fields.
TVA does not pay for trees removed from a right of way. When the right of way easement was purchased, generally the grant or judgment included the trees in the right of way.
Yes, if it is a “danger tree.” A danger tree is any tree located outside the right of way that would 1) come within five feet of an electric power line if it fell, 2) would hit a transmission line structure if it fell, or 3) would come within five feet of a transmission structure if it fell. (Some easement documents provide for a 10-foot distance.) Almost all easement documents give TVA the right to remove such trees for the protection of the transmission line.
TVA also has the permanent right under most easement documents to remove any portion of a tree that is located off the right of way but extends over it, regardless of the height of the tree.
Tree-trimming is a hazardous and expensive activity. Generally, TVA removes danger trees instead of trimming them due to the expense and hazard of the maintenance.
TVA generally does not have a legal duty to move felled danger trees that are located outside a right of way onto the right of way after they are felled.
TVA is generally not required to reimburse property owners for danger trees it removes.
Yes, you should contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team about trees that are near or within a TVA right of way. Do not attempt to remove such trees yourself.
TVA Right-of-Way Restrictions
When evaluating your current vegetation and before planting anything in a right of way, consult this list of suggested low-growing trees and shrubs that may be compatible with certain areas of the right of way. Just remember that even if a particular tree or shrub is on the list, it might still be a problem if it is planted in the wrong place. That's why it is a good idea to always call your TVA Transmission Right of Way team before planting anything. TVA's Right of Way Foresters can help you make good choices that will enhance the beauty of your property without endangering the reliable power you and others depend on.
Burning brush and other debris is not allowed within the right of way. Fire and smoke may damage the transmission structures and wires and may interrupt electric power service to customers.
You should not store combustible materials on the right of way since these materials pose a potential fire hazard to the operation of the transmission line. Nothing should be stacked or stored on the right of way if its height or position compromises the electrical safety clearance distance to the line or impedes accessibility to the line for maintenance. Extreme caution should be exercised when forklifts or other loading equipment are used under any electric lines (see next question).
Almost all easement documents prohibit the presence of buildings or other structures on the right of way. Further, buildings, swimming pools and structures can be an unreasonable interference with TVA’s easement rights.
Septic tanks and septic fields are generally not compatible with a transmission line right of way due to the possibility of extremely heavy equipment such as cranes, digger derricks, trucks, tractors, etc. being on the right of way. Only under rare circumstances would TVA find that there is no unreasonable interference to the transmission system or easement. Before installing septic systems on an easement, contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team.
Not if the ground elevation is raised such that it poses a safety clearance or other type of risk. If such activities do not unreasonably interfere with the safe operation and maintenance of the line and do not restrict reasonable access to the line, they are generally permitted if the plans are reviewed by TVA. Before performing grade-changing activities, contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team.
If the type and location of the fence do not unreasonably interfere with TVA’s easement rights, they may be allowed. For example, landowners can install agricultural-type fences, such as those made of three-strand barbed wire or woven-wire. Stone, brick, wrought-iron and chain-link fences are generally not allowed without special access provision.
TVA representatives need to travel up and down the rights of way, so if fences of any type are constructed, 16-foot-wide gates may be required for TVA access. Request approval from the TVA Transmission Right of Way team before installing fences across a right of way.
TVA discourages and in some cases prohibits solar panel placement on TVA transmission line easements, and prohibits all solar panel placement in the wire zone along transmission rights of way. The wire zone is a critical area to the safety and reliability of TVA transmission lines and is subject to various types of vegetation maintenance and line maintenance. Placement of permanent objects in the wire zone hampers, and in some cases prevents, adequate access to equipment that facilitates maintenance and storm response. As with placement of any structures or objects in the right of way, the landowner must provide a detailed plan and obtain written permission from TVA prior to installation inside the easement. Contact the TVA Transmission Right of Way team.