Pipelines, Utility Workers, & Farmers: A Great Partnership

Large gas pipeline installation in Tioga County, PA

All partnerships work best when the partners work closely together. Any football  team or race team or farm team needs everyone working together for the common goal. Pipelines are owned by the utility companies, but farmers work the land around them and, in some cases, care for them. Farmers work the land, care for the livestock and are usually aware of what is on, and beneath, their land.

I watched an older farmer one time during a visit from the electric company. The service guy came to the farm and they were discussing an electric pole out in the pasture. The farmer said, “Yes, that pole is number so-and-so.” The service person asked how he knew that. The farmer responded, “We keep an eye on that pole and care for it. I see it when I mow pasture or check the cows.” This is one example of how the agricultural community is aware of what is on the farms and how they like to work together with the utility companies. The farm community cares about items on their land and likes to have a cooperative partnership with the companies that need to cross the land.

On my farm in Northern Pennsylvania, the local gas company was working on a  transmission line replacing corrosion nodes. They informed me when they might be digging up the line area, and it was a perfect opportunity for us to look at the line together and observe the depth of the line and the soils structure that was in the area. As the landowner, it was great to be able to see the exact location of the pipeline and how deep it really was. The gas line employees worked with me to mark the line and talk about any farming or construction activities near the line. This type of positive interaction with farming landowners creates future benefits for the 811 One Call system. I used the 811 system years later when replacing a drain culvert. We were able to come up with the best plan for a new plastic drain line.

In many areas of the country, new lines are being installed. This is a great opportunity for partnership across the farming communities, utility companies, and other agronomy interests in those areas. As new lines are installed or replaced, I would encourage the utility companies and
installers to include the agricultural community and farmers whose land they cross. The opportunity to work together in the placement and for the monitoring of these lines is important to all.

I encourage everyone to use the 811 system. It is always better to know where a line is than to find out by error. Farmers want to return crop fields to production as soon as possible or pipeline rights-of-way to a productive area. When we all work together on these projects, it’s a win-win result.

J. Craig Williams is a Penn State Extension Agricultural Agent and member of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. He can be reached at jcw17@psu.edu.

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