Minnesota Digs Up the Dirt On Buried Pipes and Cable


Hoping to avoid both dangers and delays, Minnesota legislators are poised to weigh in on HF 2717, a bill that would update excavation notice procedures within the state. As KARE-TV reports, although there are already procedures in place to prevent construction projects from hitting buried utility lines, outdated maps and unmarked hazards are common. 

“Unmarked utility lines were a significant and primary factor in the increase in cost of the project, doubling of the timeline to complete the project, and a far more substantial access impact to businesses and the community than we initially expected and prepared for,” Commissioner Nicole Frethem stated. 

“There’s more and more stuff underground – gas lines, cable lines, phone lines, power lines, water mains, pipelines, and more and more fiber for broadband,” noted bill sponsor Rep. Larry Kraft. “Digging in the wrong place can range in impacts from creating a nuisance to shutting down a facility or a street to putting lives at risk.”

Co-sponsor Sen. John Hoffman said the intent of the bill was to promote better coordination and cooperation between the various parties by employing new technologies like geospatial mapping prior to digging. “This gets us to where, ‘Guess what? Now I have that digital moment in time,'” he commented, reports KARE-TV. “That would alleviate some of the stress of an excavator going down there, not knowing when you’ll hit a gas pipe.”

“There have not been significant updates in almost 40 years,” agreed Laura Ziegler of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota. “This often leaves contractors and project owners in the dark.” Calling 811 before starting an extensive digging project is a state requirement that will send surveyors out to mark the site to identify buried utilities. However, if they are marking lines based on incorrect information, problems can ensue. An unfortunate dig can cut cables, hit pipes and result in lengthy construction delays.

“We think we’re clear to start digging and then we’ll find an appurtenance — something coming off the pipeline — and that’s what we strike,” said John Hass of Veit & Company. “We had 16 gas strikes in the last two years and 11 of those were mismarked or not marked appurtenances coming off the pipeline – extensions of the pipe.”

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