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What lies under your yard…and what to do about it

Aug. 10, 2017

Photo of the Lowry Bridge in Minneapolis
Photo: The Lowry Avenue Bridge will be lit up in green on Friday, Aug. 11 in honor of National 811 Day. Minnesota law requires homeowners and professional excavators alike to call before they dig.


We get it: You’re not an excavator, but sometimes you play one on TV. Or rather, sometimes you dig holes in your yard to plant trees or shrubs or install mailboxes or swing sets or any number of things. And even though Minnesota state law requires anyone doing any sort of excavation (yes, even to carve out a new little garden in the corner of the lawn over there) to give notice before they dig, wouldn’t you want to do it anyway? Calling before you dig can help you avoid fines, but more importantly, you can prevent accidents, explosions, injury and even death.

That’s where Gopher State One Call comes in. It’s a service provided free of charge – all you have to do is dial 811 or go online. Whichever option you choose, they’ll want your name, phone number, street address, and dig location. Also make sure you’re ready to tell them what the nearest intersection is, what type of work you plan to do, and the date and time you want to start.

Then, mark the digging area with white stakes or white spray paint (otherwise they might mark your whole lot). Gopher State One call will make sure any utility with underground facilities near the site knows about your dig, and they’ll send out a locator to mark anything in your dig site that you could run into. They’ll use color-coded flags or paint — that way you’ll know what type of utility it is.

Calling before you dig is so important, the State of Minnesota has named a National 811 Day on Aug. 11. (Get it? 8/11?) The Interstate 35W and Lowry Avenue bridges in Minneapolis will both be lit green that day, and the next day is the annual 811 5k Run/Walk at Lake Calhoun. It starts at — you guessed it — 8:11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12. The registration fee is $25, and proceeds go to the Twin Cities Firefighters Operation Warm, a non-profit that helps kids get warm coats during the winter.

So next time you plan on digging, remember those three little digits that can save your and your neighbors’ lives: 811. When you know what’s below, everyone is safer.