Town Talk: Call 811 before you dig, it’s the law

Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about your upcoming outside projects, likeplanting trees, shrubs, flowers, or installing a fence or deck. Many of these projects require digging by hand or with the use of power equipment.

Before you put a shovel or a stake in the ground, stop and think about what might be underneath. Where is that power line that runs to my house and garage? What about my phone, cable, water and gas lines? There are many hidden lines in the ground that need to be marked before you dig, and it is easy to do.

Just call 811 at least 48 hours before you plan to dig, excluding weekends, holidays and emergencies. This will connect you to The Gopher State One Call Center where a customer service representative will help you with your locate request. When you are finished, they will give you a ticket number and a start date and time. Your start date will usually be 48 hours after the call as this will allow enough time for locators to mark all the utilities in your work area.

Make sure your work area is marked with white paint or flags, so the utility locator knows where to mark. You can tie a white rag on a stake or paint it white, anything that will get the attention of the locators. This will also prevent unnecessary markings around your yard. There may be several locators visiting your work site. They will mark utilities if there are any in the area, or they will leave a flag stating that the area is clear.

If you have privately owned lines, such as electricity or gas to a detached garage, they will not be marked. You will have to hire a private locator. A list of private locating companies can be found on the Gopher State web site, gopherstateonecall.org.

Respect the locators’ marks. When you start your project make sure you hand dig carefully within 2 feet of any markings to prevent damaging the utility. An insulated wire or plastic gas line is no match for a steel shovel or wooden stake. If you do cause damage to a utility, look at the marking flag to get the number to call and report the damage. The facility operator will send someone out to inspect and repair any damage. Don’t bury or attempt to repair the damage yourself as this could cause an even bigger problem in the future.

You can stop by the Public Utilities office at 310 1st North Street if you would like a free copy of the Gopher State One Call Handbook. So always remember to call 811 before beginning any excavation project. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s the law. Have a safe digging season.


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