Call Before You Dig

Dial 811 before digging — it’s the law (RCW 19.122).

Digging is dangerous if you don’t check first for underground lines. Knowing the path of existing underground facilities helps you avoid injury or financial responsibility for repairing damaged lines. If you dig into an underground facility, you could cause:

  • Electrocution or injury
  • Explosion or fire
  • Power outages
  • Flooding
  • Disruption of communications networks
  • Costs to repair damage

If you dig into an underground electric line, immediately move away and keep others away. Do not handle the line or try to repair it.

The person doing the excavating work must call 811 at least two business days before digging (but not more than 10 days in advance). Cowlitz PUD and other local utilities will mark their underground lines at no cost. Cowlitz PUD is part of the Cowlitz County Utilities Coordinating Council, which is a group of local utilities that work together to help contractors and homeowners dig safely.

Utility Locate Colors


Safe Digging Checklist

  • Make sure to call 811 at least two business days in advance of digging. By calling this one phone number, all utilities in your work area will be contacted for you by the NUNC.
  • Electric lines will be marked with red paint, red flags or both. If you know the route where you plan to dig, mark it with white paint. This helps locating personnel find the right area and locate nearby facilities as accurately as possible.
  • Do not use machinery to dig any closer than 24 inches on either side of the marks. Locating equipment is usually accurate, but it is important that you allow at least a two-foot “tolerance” zone.
  • When you have to dig within 24 inches of the utility line, use a hand shovel as you cross over an existing line or approach an existing above-ground facility such as a transformer, pole or meter base. Dig very slowly and cautiously, as it is common for underground lines to be shallow in these areas.

Utility lines are normally buried at approved depths of two feet or more, but conditions can change. Shallow utility lines may be present in areas of previous excavation or landscaping. Also, underground lines you own may exist between your house and garage. The utility company does not mark these privately owned lines.

Our first concern is you safety. Please call Cowlitz PUD if you have any questions at (360) 423-2210 or (800) 631-1131 or fill out our Contact form with the Questions About Digging option to email us.