Be Safe Planning Spring Projects

When building a new fence, always call 811 before you dig the post holes. Adobe stock photo by Robert

Spring is around the corner, which means you may be thinking about outdoor projects.

As you plan, keep in mind how projects on your property may impact NLI’s power lines and equipment.

Idaho and Montana have adopted national required codes. You also must consider easements NLI or other utilities have on your property and what is allowed within those easements.

In the United States, electric power utilities follow the National Electric Safety Code. NESC is the standard for safe installation, operation and maintenance of electric power and communication utility systems, including overhead lines, underground lines and substations. For example, NESC has requirements for how far above a roadway overhead conductors must be. That distance is greater over railroads and varies depending on the voltage of the line. A distribution line has a shorter vertical clearance to a roadway than a high-voltage transmission line. The NESC handbook is almost 700 pages and is updated every five years. It is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. NLI’s power line designs adhere to NESC.

You may also have heard of National Electric Code. Like NESC, NEC was created for electrical safety. NEC covers electrical systems within homes and businesses and provides best practices for lower voltage power systems (600V and less). NEC covers the secondary wires for your electric service. It is published by the National Fire Protection Association and revised every three years.

Outdoor projects of concern to NLI include, but are not limited to, building fences, planting trees, installing fuel tanks, pools, and outbuildings such as sheds or chicken coops. NLI crews follow NESC code whenever they install or update power lines.

We do not want a member to build something that violates safety code. This can be expensive for the member and be a major safety hazard. In most cases, the member must pay to remove whatever is causing a code violation or pay to have the power line rerouted, if possible.

Members are required to call 811 for underground locates. This is a free service. Of course, you should always look up for overhead hazards when planning your project.

If you are unsure about how a project will affect NLI’s facilities, please call our office and we can help you make a good, safe decision.

Kristin MettkeNorthern Lights Engineering & Operations Manager Kristin Mettke is an electrical engineer and has worked in the electric utility industry most of her career.