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Audit Report: OAS-L-14-05

March 31, 2014

Bonneville Power Administration's Transmission Vegetation Management Program

The Department of Energy's (Department) Bonneville Power Administration (Bonneville) markets wholesale power produced from Federal water projects.  Bonneville's Transmission Vegetation Management Program (Vegetation Program) is responsible for ensuring measures are in place to prevent physical contact between transmission lines and nearby vegetation.  Bonneville's overall Vegetation Program budget for Fiscal Year 2013 was approximately $14.9 million, with approximately $12.5 million provided to contractors for performance of vegetation maintenance work. 

Bonneville's Vegetation Program included a number of positive controls and technologies to ensure vegetation surrounding its transmission lines were properly maintained.  Specifically, over the last 5 years, Bonneville utilized a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system to inspect and detect vegetation conditions that required maintenance.  LiDAR is a remote sensing system used to collect topographic and geospatial data and has the capability to detect, with nearly 100 percent accuracy, vegetation that requires maintenance.  Additionally, Bonneville had developed a continual vegetation monitoring program designed to ensure that all necessary maintenance is completed.  However, our review identified several opportunities to improve the management of contractors that performed vegetation maintenance for Bonneville.

Because Bonneville initiated actions to ensure the inspectors' reviews were documented, we did not make any formal recommendations.  However, we provided a suggested action to further improve Bonneville's Vegetation Program.

Topic: Management & Administration