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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, March 23, 2012
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

April is safe digging month in South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. – As South Dakotans gear up for spring construction and planting projects, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the South Dakota One Call Board remind all residents to always call 811 a few days before any digging project to have underground utilities marked.

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to the South Dakota One Call center which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both. The 811 call and the subsequent marking of utilities are free to the homeowner or contractor.

"Making the call to 811 is a simple and necessary first step in any outdoor construction project," said PUC Chairman Chris Nelson. "Knowing what's below before digging can prevent injury, property damage and preserve the utility services that we all depend on," he concluded.

A utility line is damaged by digging once every three minutes nationwide, according to Common Ground Alliance, a national membership organization of damage prevention stakeholders. One-third of these damage incidents are caused by failure of the professional excavator or homeowner to call 811 before beginning their digging project, CGA reported.

Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after a call to 811.

"One Call phone representatives are trained to efficiently collect information from excavators," said South Dakota One Call Board President Kurt Pfeifle of Mid-Dakota Rural Water System. "The representative will ask the caller for the location and description of the digging project and will then notify the utilities, which will dispatch personnel to mark the site," he said. State law requires notification to the One Call center at least 48 hours before digging. Weekend projects should be called in to 811 the Monday or Tuesday before.

In 2011, the South Dakota One Call center received more than 127,000 locate requests. As a result 741,500 locate tickets were issued to utilities to mark underground facilities.

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

Read more about digging safely, including a proclamation by Gov. Dennis Daugaard naming April as safe digging month, at Learn about the South Dakota One Call program, laws and color codes for marking lines at