Page 3 - Alabama 811 Magazine 2022 Issue 2
P. 3

from the desk of
Annette Bowman
Alabama’s first underground damage prevention legislation was enacted in 1994. The initial enforcement process was that violations
of the law were prosecuted by the Attorney General or District Attorney in the county in which the violation occurred. Over the
years there were a minimal number of violations that were reported and very few prosecuted as violation of the law. One of the factors
that was considered a deterrent in handling these potential reported violations was that any violation penalties were to go to the State
general fund. There was no true incentive for a local county attorney to spend local resources to prosecute a violation of the law when there
was no way to recoup costs. In addition, the local district attorney had many other violations of the law to pursue as well. Adjustments
were made over the years to allow for cases related to the underground damage prevention act to be outsourced under the direction of the district
attorney. However, there continued to be no easy way for anyone to address violations of the act related to damage prevention activities.
In 2015, an Executive Order was placed to establish a One Call Study Commission to look at the feasibility of membership and effective enforcement. This Commission consisted of twenty-eight industry experts who met over the next two and a half years to analyze these topics. As part of the final report, the Commission made a recommendation for an effective enforcement program to be considered to improve the damage prevention program in Alabama.
Over the recent years, additional review was given to the recommended process and the final version was submitted in the draft legislation that was later passed in the 2019 session. The intent of this enforcement process is to improve the damage prevention process in Alabama, improve stakeholder members’ understanding of the damage prevention process and the requirements of the law, and to ultimately reduce the risk of third-party damages to Alabama’s utility underground infrastructure.
Many states have found that with strong and effective enforcements there has been a positive direct correlation with the reduction of damages in their state. The process outlined in Alabama statute is very similar to programs operational in other states that have proven to be successful. Alabama’s enforcement authority began hearing enforcement complaints in 2021. With only a year in operations, it is hard to provide key correlations between reduction in damages and the new enforcement process. However, the Authority does intend to track and analyze this data as historical data is developed. For the initial year in operation, there were 143 violations submitted to the Enforcement Authority.
Alabama 811 continues to focus on educating all stakeholders on both the requirements of the law, the enforcement process and the benefits of safe digging.
Annette Bowman Executive Director Alabama 811
2022, Issue 2 Alabama 811 • 1

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