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The Case for Underground Utilities

If you’re buying a house, how do you know if the utility lines are buried? Start by walking around the property to see if any wires are running from utility poles to the home. If there are no utility poles in the neighborhood and no wires running to the top of the house, then the lines are already buried!

 

If there are utility poles and wires running to your home, how do you know what they are for? The highest wires on a utility pole carry power, below those are cable wires, and the lowest wires carry phone signals. If any of these lines are running to your house, they are likely to be moved underground in the coming years.

Across the country, more and more cable, power, and telephone lines are being moved from poles overhead to several feet underground. Why is this occurring? Buried lines are less likely to suffer damage from natural events, such as storms. In June 2012, a derecho (a storm of high-speed, straight winds) swept through Virginia and knocked out power to five million people. More recently, in August 2020, a derecho in Iowa wiped out power for over 130,000 customers, and it took more than two weeks for power to be fully restored. Above ground lines are also frequently damaged by hurricanes, snowstorms, common thunderstorms, or even squirrels.

 

While moving lines underground will not prevent all disturbances to power, it can significantly reduce the frequency of outages.

When a company is ready to bury their lines in a neighborhood, it requires a lot of communication, coordination, and patience. Before any project involving burying utility lines can begin, a team will design a proposed route for the cables, including above ground access points.

Next, the right-of-way team will need to secure an easement to bury the lines underneath the homeowner’s property. All landowners are subject to the road’s existing easement. Our teams work with owners to secure a secondary right-of-way beyond the road’s dedicated easement to prevent moving the lines again in the future. The right-of-way process includes courthouse research, survey of existing property lines, and constant communication about where the team is with the design to ensure all residents are properly and routinely informed about the process. It concludes with easement negotiations and an agreement signed between the utility provider and the property owner.

 

Once the design and easement agreements are complete, the surrounding property will be marked by Miss Utility and a private locator to identify where existing lines, such as water or gas, are located, with colored flags or paint.

 

Once that process is complete, it is time for the lines to be buried. During this process, the service line that is being buried will have a brief period of outage that will be communicated in advance.

 

There are a couple of methods for burying utility lines. The method our designers prefer is directional drilling. It is less invasive than traditional trenching, so much so that except for the entrance pit, there is little to no disruption of traffic or other daily activities. Read more about directional drilling here. After the lines in your area are safely below ground, a crew will remove the existing overhead lines and conduct restoration, including spreading new grass seed and straw.

 

Once the process of moving the lines below ground is complete for a neighborhood, the community will experience fewer interruptions in electrical service, even during severe weather events. Draper Aden’s underground transmission and distribution team members are experts in this process. Through their work, many residents have more stable utility connections, leaving a lasting, positive impact on those communities.

 

Learn more about our services on our resources page.