Watch for utility lines before starting yard projects

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- If you spent the long cold winter making yard improvement plans, it's time to get started. But before you do, utility officials say there's a quick free phone call you need to make before doing anything else.

The beginning of spring usually marks a jump in activity for yard work and home improvement projects, but Xcel Energy officials want you to use caution, and they have good reason.

811-- it's an easy number to remember, but many folks don't call it before they start digging.

"it's inexpensive; it costs you nothing to call in. Call in advance; don't expect them to be there right away. They need a three-day notice," said Fred Eggleston of Xcel Energy.

It's the quickline to get the Utility Notification Center of Colorado (UNCC), but why should you call them? Xcel Energy officials say it's this time of year when a large number of outages and other damage happens as residents start sprucing up their yards.

"Even sometimes just taking a tractor and digging a hole, you can get down deep enough where you can hit those utilities, so you want to be extra careful", said Dan Komlo of Bookcliff Gardens.

But if you don't make the call to help locate the utilities under your yard, it can be expensive.

If you damage lines, energy officials say it can result in penalties up to $75,000.

"it is expensive if you hit a utility without a locate, or even with a locate. They're going to charge you for that utility, and it gets pretty pricey, especially if it is after-hours", said Komlo.

Dnd don't overlook the call even if you're just wielding a shovel. Often it's just a simple yard tool that can hit those utility lines and turn a fine spring day into a nightmare.

So far in 2013, damage to the company's underground systems are up by nearly 38 percent from the same period in 2012.

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