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Fighting the boredom with yard work? Read this first.

April 27, 2020

A family planting a tree and bushes in their yard


If you’re stuck at home during this pandemic, you’re probably looking for ways to stay occupied. Once Netflix and jigsaw puzzles lose their luster, you may find yourself in your backyard, trying to decide whether to plant the tomatoes by the garage or over by the fence this year. But there’s one step that needs to come before you use that shovel in your hand: You need to call 811 before you dig.

Every six minutes, an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without calling 811. That means every six minutes, a person digging risks everything from gross inconvenience to fines to repair costs to injury and even death. And in case you’re picturing big, dramatic gas explosions and thinking that would never happen to you, consider that you could hit your internet line while digging. The threat of being unable to connect with the rest of the world during this stay-at-home order may just be enough to convince you to contact Gopher State One Call.

And if you think most utilities are buried too deep to pose a threat, think again. Factors such as erosion and construction can bring once-deep utilities just inches from the surface. The most compelling reason to request a utilities locate, though, is that it’s the law. Minnesota state law – enforced, in this case, by the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Pipeline Safety – requires anyone engaging in any type of excavation to contact Gopher State One Call at least two business days in advance.

You might feel as if calling 811 is an inconvenience, but it’s actually quite easy. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to call; you can enter your dig information online. Plus, it’s free for you — the cost is covered by Minnesota’s underground facility operators. You’ll need to tell them (or enter) the following information:

  • Your name.
  • Your phone number.
  • Your street address.
  • The dig location.
  • The nearest intersection.
  • The type of work.
  • The date and time you plan to start digging.

If you don’t want them to mark your entire lot for underground utilities, make sure to mark off the place where you plan to dig with white stakes or spray paint. Your request will get forwarded to any organization that might have underground facilities near your dig site. They’ll review the information you give and, if necessary, send someone out to mark the site so you can see what underground utilities you need to watch out for while working on your project.

It’s been too cold to do yard work for most of April, which is Safe Digging Month. But now that it’s warming up, you’re probably going to want to start some projects that involve digging, and now is the perfect time to plan ahead. That way you’ll be able to plant those tomatoes without worrying about an explosion or even a hiccup in your internet connection.