Utility Easements Can Be Dangerous Places for Farmers

Utility Easements Can Be Dangerous Places for Farmers

How the ground is restored after installation makes a big difference.

A major state highway in Greene County was blocked for several hours last week by a farmer's semi-tractor and trailer. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt, and he didn't even spill any grain. But it took a tow truck to get him out of the fix he was in and get the road reopened.

According to his son, the whole incident started because the back wheels of the trailer dropped off into a low spot related to a utility installation. It caused the front end of the truck to come off the ground. Ever try to steer a semi full of grain with the front tires off the ground? Thankfully, no one was hurt and damage was apparently minimal.

This incident, however, is a reminder that farmers all across Indiana live with various utilities crossing their property. Some are well-maintained-some aren't. If it's a major pipeline or electrical transmission line, or even major buried phone cable trunk,. Farmers aren't usually allowed to grow trees or put any builds back on that right-of-way. Many utility companies have helicopters that constantly survey these routes. If they see anything resembling a digging machine parked near their right-of-way, someone is going to get a call.

The older utility underground lines, like gas pipelines, aren't always properly marked either. In an incident a few years ago, the path of the gas pipeline was supposedly marked by orange fence posts on either side of the property. When a contractor was doing soil conservation work for the owners , and repeated calls to the pipeline company didn't produce any one to mark the line, he decided to start the project, going as far a she knew was safe, based on the orange fence posts.

As it turned out, the line was some 75 feet off from the marks. He stopped about 10 feet short of the line. When the person from the utility finally showed up and found the line, the contractor turned white. There are reported cases of backhoe operators and soil conservation personnel being killed when someone accidentally breaks into an underground pipeline that isn't properly marked with a backhoe bucket or other excavating tool.

So if you have easements and utility lines on your property, make sure you know where they are. If you have holes left by the utility that shouldn't be there, work with them to correct the problem.
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