Know What’s Below

Summer is officially in full swing, which means it is time to dig into those outdoor projects. But, before homeowners and landowners start those projects, they need to call 811 to locate any underground utilities. Calling 811 is free and ensures that property owners can dig safely without cutting into a fiber optic cable or severing an underground electric line.

Whether it is a homeowner tackling a do-it-yourself project or a professional contractor, the person who is actually doing the digging should call 811 before starting the project. The call must be made 48 hours before the project begins – excluding weekends and holidays – to ensure local utilities have enough time to locate the buried lines.

Homeowners who are simply planting a garden at a depth less than 12 inches are not required to call 811 before they plant their produce. The North Dakota 811 system takes information about digging projects 24 hours a day and seven days a week and then passes the information on to the appropriate gas company, cable company, or an electric cooperative like Nodak Electric. Those utilities have 48 hours to locate the lines and mark the ground with the appropriate colored paint. This is a completely free service.

Utility companies, however, are only required to mark the buried lines that they own and operate and not the lines that are privately owned. This means Nodak Electric crews will mark the underground lines that run from a main electric line to the meter but not the lines that run from the meter through a yard to a home, shed or shop.

Professional electricians and private locating companies will do this work but often charge a fee for locating the buried lines. The fee, however, is small in comparison to cutting into a gas line or electric line and creating a dangerous situation and being held responsible for the repairs.

Following these rules and safety practices will help homeowners avoid digging into buried lines and ensure that digging into those summer projects will be safe and enjoyable.