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MNOPS stakeholder reviews 2017

The fourth MS216D stakeholder review meeting was held on August 22nd, 2017 at the Minnesota Department of Transportation facility in St. Cloud, MN. Subgroups continued ongoing discussions of the following topics:

  1. Definition of Excavation
  2. 48-hour Notification
  3. Boundary Surveys

Proposed language changes have been developed for some of these topics and were shared at the latest meeting for all to consider. Continue reading to see these changes.

Updating the definition of excavation:

The proposed revision of the excavation definition would be as follows:

216D.01 Subdivision 5- Excavation.
“Excavation” means an activity that moves, removes, or otherwise disturbs the soil by use of:

  1. a motor or engine;
  2. a hydraulic or pneumatically powered tool;
  3. machine-powered equipment of any kind;
  4. explosives;
  5. vacuum excavation, except that:
    1. Facility operators may use vacuum excavation in a careful and prudent manner for the purposes of locating and marking their own facilities in response to a notice after all other facility operators have responded to that notice
    2. Excavators may use vacuum excavation in a careful and prudent manner to determine the precise location of a marked underground facility in accordance with MS216D.04 Subdivision 4(a) and any instructions communicated to the excavator by the facility operator.

Excavation includes hand tool installation to a depth of 12 inches or more of:

  1. Stakes
  2. Pins
  3. Posts
  4. Anchors

Excavation does not include:

  1. the extraction of minerals;
  2. the opening of a grave in a cemetery;
  3. normal maintenance of roads and streets if the maintenance does not change the original grade and does not involve the road ditch;
  4. plowing, cultivating, planting, harvesting, and similar operations in connection with growing crops, trees, and shrubs, unless any of these activities disturbs the soil to a depth of 18 inches or more;
  5. gardening unless it disturbs the soil to a depth of 12 inches or more.

This proposed definition would make several changes to existing law if it is enacted. First, there would be an official exemption for the use of vacuum excavation by underground facility operators, using it for the purpose of locating and marking their own facilities in response to a locate request after all other facility operators have responded to that notice and have marked or cleared their other facilities. An excavator would also be allowed to use vacuum extraction in order to determine the precise location of a marked underground facility within the 2-foot horizontal tolerance zone in accordance with any instructions provided by the facility operator instead of digging with hand tools. In each case, the party using vacuum extraction must use the technique in a careful and prudent manner in order to qualify for the exception. Other uses of vacuum extraction would still require a one call ticket.
Second, some hand tool usage would no longer be exempt. Members of the damage prevention industry have noted an increasing amount of damages to underground lines from the driving of posts, pins, and other anchors into the ground. This new provision would require contacting GSOC with a notice of intent to excavate whenever someone was driving posts, pins, stakes or anchors into the ground at a depth of 12 inches or more. Landscaping, fencing, masonry contractors, and tent installation contractors should take particular note of this potential requirement. Homeowners may also be affected.
Third, the long standing separate exception for the planting of windbreaks, shelterbelts, and tree plantations of less than 18 inches would be eliminated. As a practical matter, many of those activities would still be included in exception four, so it was viewed to be a seldom used and unnecessary exception to Minnesota’s One Call law.

Updating the language for the 48-hour notification:

A possible increase in the time required by notification remains under discussion. The proposed provision follows:
216D.04 Subdivision 4- Locating underground facility; excavator or land surveyor.

(c) The notice is valid for 14 calendar days from the start time stated on the notice. If the activity will continue after the expiration time, then the person responsible for the activity shall serve an additional notice at least 2 days, excluding the day of notification, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, before the expiration time of the original notice, unless the excavator makes arrangements with the operators affected to periodically verify or refresh the marks, in which case the notice is valid for six months from the start time stated on the notice.

MS216D Stakeholder Review meetings have been held throughout 2017 to allow stakeholders in the Minnesota underground utility community to come together and provide feedback on the state’s current one call laws. The Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety (MNOPS) hosts these meetings to initiate discussions about stakeholder desired changes to the law during the 2018 legislative session. Gopher State One Call (GSOC) encourages all stakeholders to participate in these meetings to provide valuable input towards the continued effort to keep our underground infrastructure safe.

If you are a member of or have a contact with the following groups, this is your opportunity to be heard:

  • Pipeline Operators
  • State Regulators
  • Underground Facility Operators
  • Professional Excavators (Contractors)
  • Utility Locators
  • One Call Center Operations
  • Municipalities
  • Homeowners
  • Landscaping and Nursery Companies
  • Fencing Companies
  • Professional Union and Organizations Representatives (MUCA, LICA, Local 49’ers Union, MNAGC, MNLA, etc.)

* Other bills and proposed changes are under continuing discussion.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the next meeting date! If you wish to be involved and offer your industry experience to enhance Minnesota’s one call laws, please contact Mike Mendiola at michael.mendiola@state.mn.us. Again, GSOC welcomes all underground utility stakeholders to participate in the MS216D review meetings. This is your opportunity to be heard and help keep Minnesota safe!

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