Modernizing Colorado 811

A significant stakeholder effort that began shortly after the 2017 legislative session led to the recently introduction of SB 18-167 to modernize Colorado’s 811 Call-Before-You-Dig Program. The program was created to prevent personal injury and property damage resulting from unintentionally harming underground facilities and utilities during excavation.

Due to a number of extenuating circumstances, there has been a concerted effort to transform Colorado 811 into a true one-call program in recent years. Currently, Colorado is the only state in the country that does not have a notification program that alerts all relevant facility owners when a locate request has been received.

SB 18-167 would eliminate Colorado’s tiered membership provisions after a two-year phase in period, to ensure all facility owners are receiving locate requests directly from 811. The bill would also create a 12-member safety commission with broad oversight and enforcement authority over the 811 program.  The commission would be composed of representatives from local government, facility owners, excavators and the CEO of the Notification Association.

CML sees a number of upsides to the current proposal, including the improved public safety and enhanced protection of municipal infrastructure. However,  we have also shared concerns about how this new safety commission would oversee municipal utilities and the cost of the transition for some of our member municipalities.

Last fall, the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities (CAMU) objected to the prospect of a municipality being regulated by a state designated safety commission that they assert would have been an unconstitutional delegation of authority reserved to home rule municipalities and their respective utilities. Other municipalities have raised concerns that the changes would inundate their offices with an overwhelming number of locate requests that could cost municipal utilities hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

To address these issues, CML has advocated for exemption language in the bill to exclude municipalities from the commission’s oversight authority in exchange for a requirement that they implement their own set of enforcement guidelines. We are also in the process of negotiating an amendment to give the safety commission a more prominent role in increasing the efficiency of 811 and implementing new policies that will help save facility owners and excavators valuable time and money over the long-term.

SB18-167 recently passed the Senate Transportation Committee on a 4-1 vote and will have to go through the Senate Finance and Senate Appropriations Committees before it goes before the full Senate.  CML will continue to monitor the legislation, on which the League is now neutral, and ensure that the final result will be positive for Colorado’s cities and towns.