By Kathy Boykin
Executive Director, Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council
I’m a homeowner wanting to plant some trees in my yard. Does the “Call or Click Before You Dig” law apply to me, and if it does, what happens when I use it?
Yes, in the state of Washington the law (RCW 19.122) applies to homeowners digging more than 12 inches in depth anywhere on their property, and it’s safer to also include those first 12 inches. While it is a law, I’ve found in 28 years working with this program that homeowners who utilize it view it as an incredible free service. Why? The electric, gas, water, sewer, phone and cable lines on your property are your responsibility — any damage you cause is fixed at your expense and could impact services not only to your home but to your neighbors as well. Statistically, those who use the program have a 99 percent chance of not hitting anything.
All that’s required is a little planning ahead. Before you dial 811 or visit www.CallBeforeYouDig.org, you are asked per the law to mark the area where you plan to dig with white paint (such as a circle or the four corners) and give the impacted utilities two full business days to mark the location of the utilities you will want to avoid. The day of the call does not count. The service even tells you what the different colors used to mark the area mean and which utilities you can expect to be coming by. Then, after two business days have passed, you can carefully start your work and just leave the markings in place during the life of your project. If your project takes more than 45 days, you will need another locate request.
I was recently at a national conference and learned that shovels have replaced backhoes as the top digger upper — meaning uninformed homeowners are the main culprit for this preventable damage. It doesn’t have to happen to you. The other day a lady mentioned the statement, “think before you dig,” and that really is perfect. A free service meant to protect you, the homeowner — it really is a no-brainer.
NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in the 2019 Liberty Lake Yearbook.