By Justin Walker
Communications Specialist

A free service could protect farmers and ranchers from damaging underground utility lines as they dig.

Texas811 is a free service designed for damage prevention and public safety when excavating land. Chris Stovall, president and chief executive officer of Texas811, said the resource is necessary for multiple reasons.

“It’s a public safety issue,” Stovall said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “If you don’t know what’s below before you start digging, then you run the risk of hitting a gas line or electric line.”

Hitting one of these lines could be very dangerous, Stovall said, which is why Texas made it a requirement for excavators to call before they dig.

“The law requires a two-working-day notice prior to excavation,” Stovall said. “That gives the utility operators plenty of time to get out there and mark the lines.”

The law states plans to dig deeper than 16 inches requires a call, but Stovall recommends calling every time you dig.

“That’s really for a few reasons,” he said. “A lot of times, stuff isn’t buried below 16 inches.”

Stovall said that new housing developments often place the phone and cable lines just below the sod. Digging a hole for a new mailbox or fence post could hit those lines.

There is also a chance that lines and markers no longer match up due to erosion. So while a marker flag may be a safe distance away from the digging sight, lines may still be in the area.

Farmers and ranchers are constantly managing their property, putting up fencing, installing watershed projects and more. Stovall said that while they may know their land very well, it is still necessary to call 811.

“There’s actually a lot of vital infrastructure that’s buried on and around farmland,” he said. “It may not be a service drop to a house but a transmission pipeline that’s carrying hazardous or volatile liquids going across the property. So, chances of a safety issue happening are pretty high, especially on farm or ranch land.”

Stovall listed gas, oil, phone, cable, fiber optics, electric and water lines as underground utilities Texas811 can identify for homeowners, farmers and ranchers.

He noted there are consequences to digging without first calling Texas811. It is a safety issue, but it is also required by law. And if hazardous materials, gas or oil get involved, so could the Railroad Commission.

“The Railroad Commission does issue fines if digging takes place without calling 811 first,” Stovall said.

The person digging is responsible for making the call, but Stovall said if a homeowner hires an excavator, the homeowner should still make sure the call has been made.

For more information, including a section on farm operations, visit

To request a line marking, call 811, visit the website or access the mobile app.