Electric co-op calls for stronger 'call before you dig' laws | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Electric co-op calls for stronger 'call before you dig' laws

Sep 18, 2015

A representative of Verendrye Electric Cooperative in north central North Dakota wants to see some strengthening of North Dakota’s “call before you dig” law.

"We're worried about a death occurring in these dig-in problems that we've had," said Tom Rafferty, the community relations manager withe Velva-based Verendrye. "Not only that, we're tired of our lines being hit by companies."

Rafferty told the Legislature’s interim Economic Impact Committee – the co-op had 35 instances in 2014 of someone hitting a power line. Rafferty says while safety is the top concern, there are economic consequences as well. He says the co-op serves the Dakota Square Mall and the Wal-Mart in Minot, as well as hundreds of other businesses.

"We talked to the Wal-Mart manager -- he said if they have a power outage, they could lose up to $50,000 an hour in sales," said Rafferty. "The costs can go higher if their food gets too warm, and they have to throw it out."

The maximum fine for not making the proper call is $25,000. But there is no minimum. Rafferty says Verendrye would like to see the Legislature put a minimum fine on companies that violate the one-call law. He says the current fines don’t deter some of the contractors.

"They'd rather just pay the fine, so they can get going on their work," Rafferty told the committee.

The Committee was assigned a study of the one-call system. After the meeting, various industry representatives agreed to talk about improvements – and bring a proposal back to the interim committee.