Farm Operations


Iowa law does not exempt farmers from making notifications to the Iowa One call System prior to engaging in a variety of farming operations. Iowa farmers are required to notify Iowa One Call prior to engaging in any of the following operations:

  • All drain tiling operations
  • All terracing operations
  • All operations that penetrate the soil more than fifteen (15) inches in depth:
    • Chisel plowing more 15 inches in depth
    • Sub-soiling more 15 inches in depth
    • Ripping more 15 inches in depth
    • Other operations penetrating the soil more than 15 inches in depth
  • Digging or driving a post in a new location other than replacing a post in its existing location.

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How accurate are the markings?

Underground facilities will be marked with paint and/or colored flags to approximate the location of the buried facilities. Iowa law allows for an 18-inch Tolerance Zone on each side of the buried facility. Excavators should try to avoid digging in this tolerance zone. If your plans demand that you must excavate in the tolerance zone, Iowa law requires that the buried facility within that tolerance zone be exposed. You expose the buried facility by hand digging with extreme caution. You must not use any type of power equipment to expose a buried facility within the tolerance zone (vacuum excavation is an example of an accepted means of exposing a buried facility in the tolerance zone other than hand digging).

 

Keep in mind that the 18 inches is to be measured from both sides of the buried facility. While most buried facilities in a homeowner’s yard are no greater than 2 inches in diameter, some facilities may be larger (18 inches on either side of a 4 inch facility requires a 40 inch tolerance zone – refer to chart). If you must excavate within the tolerance zone it is a good idea to call the operator of the buried facility (i.e.: gas & electric utility company, telephone company, etc.) to verify the size/diameter of the facility in question.

 

Notifying Iowa One Call

Iowa Law requires all farmers to notify Iowa One Call at least 48 hours prior to all excavations (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays). Normal farming operations such as, plowing, cultivation, planting, harvesting and similar operations routine to most farms are not considered to be excavations. However, other farm operations are considered to be excavations which require notification to the Iowa One Call notification center prior to performing such operations.

Farming operations that are considered to be excavations include, chisel plowing, sub-soiling or ripping more than 15 inches in depth, drain tile excavating, terracing, digging or driving a post in a new location other than replacing a post while repairing a fence in its existing location and similar operations. Farmers must be aware of and use all necessary precautions to avoid buried pipelines, telecommunication cables and any other buried facilities that may exist on their property.

If a facility is damaged in the course of farming operations, the farmer must notify the owner or operator of the facility, the 911 telephone emergency system for emergency notification to appropriate authorities and emergency response agencies and Iowa One Call. If the farmer fails to notify Iowa One Call prior to any excavation, other than the normal farming operations mentioned above, that farmer may face civil penalties and be held liable for any damages caused to the buried facilities on his/her property.

Liability Exemption for owners of Farmland

An owner of farmland used in farm operations (as defined in section (352.2 Iowa Code) who complies with Iowa One Call requirements (makes notification to Iowa One Call at least 48 hours prior to all excavations, excluding the normal farm operations mentioned above) shall not be held responsible for any damages to underground facilities if the damage occurred on the farmland in the normal course of farm operation. This exemption does not apply when the owner intentionally damages the underground facility or acts with wanton disregard or recklessness in causing the damage to the underground facility.

Farmers should take advantage of this exemption in the law by staying compliant with the Iowa One Call requirements. A simple, toll-free call to the Iowa One Call notification center at least 48 hours prior to any excavation or farm operations mentioned above is all it takes.

What Is An Excavation (Iowa Law)?

(“Excavation” means an operation in which a structure or earth, rock, or other material in or on the ground is moved, removed, or compressed, or otherwise displaced by means of any tools, equipment, or explosives and includes, but is not limited to, grading, trenching, tiling, digging, ditching, drilling, augering, tunneling, scraping, cable or pipe plowing, driving, and demolition of structures. “Excavation” does not include normal farming operations, residential, commercial, or similar gardening, the opening of a grave site in a cemetery, normal activities involved in land surveying pursuant to chapter 114, operations in a solid waste disposal site which has planned for underground facilities, the replacement of an existing traffic sign at its current location and at no more than its current depth, and normal road or highway maintenance which does not change the original grade of the roadway or the ditch.

“Normal farming operations” means plowing, cultivation, planting, harvesting, and similar operation   routine to most farms, but excludes chisel plowing, sub-soiling, or ripping more than fifteen inches in  depth, drain tile excavating, terracing, digging or driving a post in a new location other than replacing a post while repairing a fence in its existing location, and similar operations.)

Private Facilities (Including Propane) Are Not Located Via Iowa One Call

Be aware that only the buried facilities registered with Iowa One Call will be located and marked. All owners and operators of buried facilities, including public and private utilities, used in the storage, conveyance or provision of services, must register with Iowa One Call. Currently there are more than 1,500 registered members in Iowa. Private facilities may exist on real property where facilities exist only for the use and benefit of the owner or occupant on the property. Private facilities may include, but are not limited to, LP gas lines, wells and well lines, or any buried cables, wires or plumbing.

Please note that some utility companies may only mark their facilities up to the termination point, point of attachment or service entrance – not all the way to the farmhouse or other structure. Iowa law requires facility owners and operators to mark only the portion of the buried facility that they own and maintain. While some facilities may terminate at the farmhouse or other stucture, such as electric, telephone and cable TV, some facilities may terminate at a service entrance near the street, point of attachment on a utility pole or other location. An example may be the gas line that terminates at a meter along the front road of the farm property. Lateral sanitary sewer lines (from the house to the street) are the property of the homeowner and not owned or maintained by the city, sewer or water utilities.

Enforcement and Civil Penalties (Iowa Attorney General)

Failure to notify Iowa One Call at least 48-hours (excluding weekends and legal holidays) prior to engaging in any farming operations that penetrate the soil more than 15 inches is a violation of the law.

Farmers who violate the law set forth in (Iowa Code, Chapter 480 – hyperlink) are subject to civil penalties as follows:

(see civil penalties…)

Damaging Pipelines During Farming Operations is a Serious Offense

The Iowa Attorney General, upon the receipt of a complaint from a pipeline operator, or any other complaints, may institute any legal proceedings necessary to enforce the penalty provisions under Iowa Code, Chapter 480 (Link to “Civil Penalties”)

Drain Tile Installation may Cause Serious Damages to Critical Infrastructure

The underground facilities infrastructure is a vast and complicated network of systems put in place to convey the essential services necessary to provide Iowa communities with safe and efficient processes vital to protecting life, health, property and the environment.  No owner of farmland is exempt from the requirements of the law to protect this vital infrastructure.

Damaging a fiber optic cable or a hazardous materials pipeline during farming operations can put communities at serious risk and violators of the law, and those who are reckless in implementing safe farming and excavating procedures, may be prosecuted by the full extent of the law.

Normal Farming Operations Do Not Require Locate Notifications

“Normal Farming Operations” means plowing, cultivating, planting, harvesting, and similar operations routine to most farms, but excludes chisel plowing, sub-soiling, or ripping more than fifteen inches in depth, drain tile excavating, terracing, digging or driving a post in a new location other than replacing a post while repairing a fence in its existing location, and similar operations.