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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 5, 2013        
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

Safe digging month kicks off spring construction season

PIERRE, S.D. – As South Dakotans prepare for spring construction and planting projects, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the South Dakota One Call Board remind residents to always call 811 a few days before any digging project to request that underground utilities be 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 dispatched to the 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.

"Calling 811 is a crucial step in any excavation project," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "The time investment to dial the three-digit number is minimal, but the potential savings, in terms of personal safety and infrastructure preservation, is priceless."

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.

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.

"Callers to 811 should be prepared to give the location of their dig site as well as the start time and duration of the dig activity," said South Dakota One Call Board President Kurt Pfeifle of Mid-Dakota Rural Water System. "The locating process is a well-honed procedure that works well and truly saves lives and facilities."

In 2012, the South Dakota One Call center received more than 133,000 locate requests. As a result 787,600 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