Hazardous Limbs, Trees, and Stumps

Category A: Overview of Hazardous Limbs, Trees, and Stumps

The next several slides take a closer look at eligibility considerations for the following common types of vegetative debris:

  • Tree limbs or branches
  • Trees that are still in place but damaged to the extent they pose an immediate threat
  • Stumps

While hazardous limbs, trees, and stumps are generally eligible to receive funding, debris removal activities for vegetative debris are generally not eligible when:

  • The hazard existed prior to the incident
  • The hazard occurred in a natural area and does not extend over improved property or public-use areas (such as trails, sidewalks, or playgrounds)
  • The activity is routine maintenance (e.g., pruning, trimming, landscaping)
A downed telephone pole and broken tree limbs across electrical wires depicting common hangers the require removal.

Category A: Broken Limb or Branch Removal

While broken limbs or branches are common types of vegetative debris and are generally eligible, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration when making an eligibility recommendation. For instance, the Applicant should take into account the location of the broken limb or branch; specifically, whether it is on public land or is it on private property. The location will help FEMA determine whether the limb or branch may be eligible for Public Assistance.

Generally, not eligible unless the following occurs:

  • The broken limb or branch has a diameter of 2 inches or larger and poses an immediate threat
  • The hazard hangs over improved property or public-use areas because it could fall and cause injury or damage to an improved property.
  • The broken limb or branch has been cut at the 'minimum cut' to remove the hazard
  • Cutting the branch at the trunk may not be eligible if the threat can be eliminated by cutting it at the closes main branch junction.

A broken limb or branch that is located on private property is generally not eligible. FEMA may consider funding removal when:

  • The limbs or branches extend over the public rights-of-way
  • The limbs or branches post an immediate threat
  • The Applicant removes the hazard from the public rights-of way without entering the private property

Category A: Tree Removal

FEMA may consider trees to be hazardous and eligible if the Applicant can attribute the damage to the incident and if the tree's diameter is 6 inches or greater, measures at least 4.5 feet above ground level, and has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Split trunk
  • Broken canopy
  • Leaning at an angle greater than 30 degrees

In instances where a disaster-damaged tree has 50 percent or more of the root-ball exposed, the tree may be eligible for removal and the root-ball may be eligible for filling. Should FEMA determine that the tree is eligible for funding, the Applicant should note that:

  • For contracted removal, FEMA will not reimburse two separate unit costs to remove the tree and its root-ball.
  • When trees have less than 50 percent of the root-ball exposed, FEMA only provides Public Assistance funding to flush cut the item at ground level and dispose of the cut portion based on volume or weight; grinding any residual stump after cutting the tree is not eligible.

Category A: Stump Removal

A stump with 50 percent or more of the root-ball exposed may be eligible for removal and filling in of the root-ball hole. If grinding a stump in-place is less costly than extraction, grinding the stump in-place may be eligible.

Stump removal in areas with known or high potential for archaeological resources usually requires FEMA to further evaluate and consult with the State or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. If the Applicant discovers any potential archeological resources during stump removal, the Applicant must immediately cease work and notify FEMA.

The Applicant should note that when a stump is removed by contracted services, FEMA reimburses contracted costs charged on a per-stump basis if:

  • The stump is 2 feet or larger in diameter measured 2 feet above the ground; and
  • Extraction is required as part of the removal.

The Applicant must ensure the price for stump removal includes extraction, transport, disposal, and filling the root-ball hole.

Category A: Hazardous Limbs, Trees, and Stumps Documentation Requirements

In order for the vegetative debris to be found eligible, the Applicant must provide all requested documentation to support the eligibility claim of removing tree limbs, branches, stumps, or trees that are still in place. Requested documents may include but are not limited to:

  • Specifics of the immediate threat with the latitude and longitude location and photograph or video documentation that establishes the item is on public property
  • Diameter of each item removed (measurement must be 2 feet up the trunk from the ground for stumps and 4.5 feet up for trees)
  • Quantity of material to fill root-ball holes
  • Equipment used to perform the work

Category A: Cost Considerations for Hazardous Limbs, Trees, and Stumps

Debris removal for limbs, trees, and stumps is typically charged based on a unit price for volume (cubic yards) or weight (tons). When a hazardous tree or stump is collected individually, contractors often charge a price per tree or stump based on its size.

  • There are eligibility criteria and documentation requirements based on a price per each item instead of by volume or weight. Without sufficient documentation, the Applicant may not receive funding.
  • FEMA encourages Applicants to procure branch or limb removal for a one-time charge per tree, as opposed to a unit price per limb or branch to facilitate more cost-effective operations.
A downed tree with entire root bulb exposed depicting a hazardous stump that requires removal.

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