"One Call" law strengthened

May 7, 2013

The Legislature is strengthening North Dakota’s “One Call” system.

“One Call” means a contractor who wants to do some digging needs to call “8-1-1” to find out if there are underground power lines or pipelines in that area. Current state law says failure to do so could bring up to a $5000 fine. But the maximum was raised to $25,000.

The group Utility Shareholders of North Dakota helped to shepherd the legislation through the session.

"What is happening is that people, with the expanded development in the west, are digging before they call, thinking the fine is small enough that they're going to make more money digging and dealing with it if they cut through something," said USND president Carlee McLeod. "We're hoping that $25,000 will make people stop and think before they do that."

McLeod also says when a one call ticket is issued, it’s only good for ten days – but it can be renewed. She says that’s been extended to 21 days, and that eases the burden on the locators who are out in the field. McLeod says anyone who puts something new into the ground will need to make it locatable in the future – by a tracer wire or by filing GPS coordinates.

"We have a large problem in the state with abandoned pipelines and utility lines," said McLeod. "We don't really know how to fix that. We don't know how to go back and find those lines. But moving forward, we can stop them from being non-locatable."

The new One Call law takes effect August First.