Capital Electric partners with Summit Utility Services for locates
No job is too small for North Dakota One Call. Prior to planting a tree or setting a flag pole in the Capital Electric Cooperative service area, you must contact 811, North Dakota One Call, to request a locate of the underground utilities lines. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s the law.
For about a year, Capital Electric has been partnering with Summit Utility Services to provide locates on behalf of the co-op. Jeff Holzer, system supervisor at Capital Electric, says the cooperative started outsourcing the job when an employee retired last summer.
“It can be seasonal work,” Holzer explains. “In the wintertime we could have one or two locates in a day; in the summer we could have 50 or more in a day. It makes sense to outsource this job and partner with Summit.”
Underground utility lines including electric, gas, telephone, Internet and more, need to be marked — or staked — before a consumer or contractor digs. Some of the many projects that require a call to 811, or One Call, would include planting a tree, installing a fence, or building or adding onto a home. Regardless of the project size, if you plan to dig or excavate, you must call One Call first. It can take up to 48 hours, or two business days, for every utility company to mark the underground lines.
The process of locating goes like this: A consumer or contractor calls 811 and generates an electronic locate request among all area utilities. Summit Utility Services receives the request on behalf of Capital Electric. An employee for Summit is dispatched to the site. This person will have maps of the Capital Electric service area that identify consumers and power lines. Using a locator, which is a transmitter with two clips, the employee sticks a probe in the ground for grounding purposes, and then clips onto utility infrastructure such as an area transformer. The probe then sends a signal down the wire. Using a handheld receiver, the employee can identify the underground line, and mark it with paint and flags. The employee takes photos of the completed locate, which is good for 21 days.
Troy Holzworth, president of Summit Utility Services, started in the industry about 25 years ago. He says in the “old days,” people didn’t give much thought to digging without placing a call. “There weren’t nearly as many miles of underground utility lines,” he says. “Now, it may not be safe to put a shovel in your own yard. Quite a bit has changed.”
The process, which has become quite a bit more extensive over the years, is not just important — it’s necessary. “If you were to hit a utility line that is not marked or is improperly marked, it could cause a power outage or injury. If you’ve been watching the national news, there have been several gas explosions where people were killed, as a result of not having called 811 and followed through with the process,” Holzworth says. “At the end of the day, One Call is all about public safety and keeping plant intact.”
Holzworth says Summit Utility Services partners with many utility companies including electric cooperatives to perform locates, and notes that all of the co-ops in North Dakota have, “great people to be business partners with in damage prevention.”