It's that time of year: the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) is conducting power line inspections. The inspections, which take place every spring, start on Thursday and will continue late into the month, barring inclement weather.

Residents are likely to spot a low-flying, slow-moving helicopter in the weeks ahead. There is no need to fret, according to Chelan PUD spokeswoman Rachel Hansen, because the hovering aircraft is completely innocuous. (Click here to read our past reporting on helicopter inspections.)

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"There's going to be an engineer and an arborist," Hansen says. "The engineer will be looking for any changes to the equipment on those transmission lines - just making sure that everything is maintained in tip-top condition."

"An arborist will also be on board the helicopter to see if there any hazard trees threatening transmission lines. If so, we'll put a together a plan to move the hazard trees away from the line."

(For the uninitiated, arborists are people who specialize in maintaining and nurturing trees and other woody plants.)

Utility providers across the country are ever more reliant on helicopter inspections. Choppers are perceived as more efficient and cost-effective. But the Chelan PUD also carries out ground-based inspections.

"We have a team of three - soon to be four - arborists who do inspections on the ground," Hansen says. "They inspect both distribution and our transmission lines for shrubs and trees." This is done to ensure "adequate clearance."

This inspection will cover "300 miles of transmission lines - from Stevens Pass to Wenatchee, Palisades to Manson," Hansen says.

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Gallery Credit: Lauren Gordon

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