November 2015 Vol. 70 No. 11


Cable Undergrounding Program

Dominion Virginia Power is engaged in an ambitious cable undergrounding program that each year will replace as much as 350 miles of aerial power cable with new underground distribution lines.

Ultimately the plan calls for nearly 4,000 miles of electric distributed cable to go underground.

To limit surface damage and disruption of routine activities, most of the work is being done by horizontal directional drilling (HDD).

With so much underground construction under way – most of it in established residential and business areas – a priority is to avoid damaging existing utilities. To achieve that goal, Dominion and other utility providers have established a “partnership” to share information about their respective utility infrastructures.

The plan incorporates an electronic data-driven process which allows integration of data from different sources and systems to perform more accurate risk assessments and effectively communicate the information to all parties involved.

Each utility can assess any risk that the project may pose to their facilities. Contractors will have a complete awareness of the utilities in their path of installation, maximizing their ability to work safely, streamline the construction process and reduce downtime.

Customers of all utility providers also benefit – the more accurately existing facilities are marked, the less restoration will have to occur on their property along with the reduction of incidents resulting in service disruption.

Under the plan, all stake holders are responsible for ensuring infrastructure integrity and safety during project work taking place within their footprint, explained Andrew Brooks, Dominion damage prevention manager.

“Utility providers are responsible for being as transparent as possible regarding paths of their installations and requiring their contractors to be well educated about the dig laws that apply to where they are working,” he continued. “One-Call agencies and locating firms benefit from a defined scope of work and improved scheduling, reducing over-notification and unnecessary updates and re-notifications.”

The utility owning the project – in this case Dominion Virginia – is responsible for communicating with the utilities impacted by the project and reviewing data provided through-out the life of the project.

“If these simple guidelines are followed, they will reduce the number of incidents and minimize any damage that may occur,”
Brooks added.

Keys to success of a shared information partnership are a commitment to damage prevention by all parties, accurate GIS (geographic information system) data, electronic manifests and a common method of sharing information.

Brooks said GIS information has become critical for utilities and their locating contractors.

“Utilizing shared partnerships with our locators,” he said, “we run risk models to identify potential conflicts with other underground infrastructure. This will give every stakeholder involved an opportunity to inspect and ensure the integrity of their facilities throughout the project.”

For each project, Dominion provides the locating contractor a “path of excavation” (the term “excavation” encompasses directional drilling).

“Utilities then engage with both the locate firm and installation contractor to develop a plan to reduce the risk to existing facilities,” Brooks said. “Utilities also may perform inspection during the One-Call process, to ensure plan compliance and damage reduction.”

These steps are performed before a One-Call locate is requested.

After completion of locates, contractors are given an Enhanced Positive Response (EPR) showing locations of utilities in conflict with the intended bore route. EPR is considered a significant development in efforts to prevent damage to buried facilities by providing precise, unalterable electronic documentation of all locating activities that were performed. Contractors can access resulting data with a laptop or mobile device prior to dispatching crews on site.

Brooks said it is too early in the program to evaluate damage statistics, but that no damages have occurred thus far.

“The partnership,” he concluded, “is being well received and the involved partners are excited about the prospects of advancing our damage prevention programs by utilizing technological advancements.  We are currently in a contractor evaluation period so metrics are being gathered and contractors scored on their performance.

Also see the Editor’s Log for October 2015: Seeking Solutions For Undergrounding Electric Transmissions.

Dominion Virginia Power
(866) 366-4357,

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