January 20, 2020
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyThe Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance three-day symposium recently concluded at the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood.

Three hundred participants attended the three-day event with a commitment from the underground utilities to help the small landscape contractor.

The utilities want to sign up more firms to Alternate Locate Agreements (ALA). These agreements mean that a telephone call or email to Ontario One Call will result in a waiver of the locate markings and the landscape or irrigation contractor can immediately proceed to dig without waiting for the locate company to complete the ground markings.

In a meeting with some of the key utilities, it was suggested that the best way to make this happen is to have the main utilities offer ALA signups at LO Chapter meetings and at Congress 2015. Utilities such as Bell Tel, Union Gas, Enbridge, Rogers, etc.,  agreed and are all eager to increase the number of ALA registrations in our industry. ALAs offer approvals over the telephone and the landscape project can proceed without delays. This will improve efficiency and lower costs for both utilities and the landscape industry.

CCGA looks to the future

Mike Sullivan, Executive Director of the Canadian Common Ground Alliance, reported that the organization is encouraging locate requests by email. Their slogan is Click before You Dig. There are efficiencies in electronic requests, because there is no waiting. They can be done outside normal business hours and there are fewer errors. Sullivan reported that in 2012, Alberta locate requests were 37 per cent by email and 63 per cent by telephone, while in 2013, it was 63 per cent email and 37 per cent telephone. Currently, these requests are running 75 per cent by email.

Sullivan reported that annual utility repair costs across Canada are more than $700 million. The main reason for damages is still the absence of locate requests by excavation contractors.

Bill 8 progress

Nicole Stewart, of the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, gave an update on the status of the Ontario One Call Act. All underground asset owners (utilities and other) must register with the Ont 1 Call group by June 19, 2014. The Act will allow contractors to make a single call to Ont 1 Call, and locates will proceed automatically and eliminate the need for contractors having to make several utility locate requests.

MCS regulations have been prepared and will be submitted shortly to the industry for review. There will be heavy fines for violations to the Act. There are 375 utilities due to register with the Ont 1 Call system. Presently, only 93 are registered.

Jeffery Hitchcock of Ont 1 Call, reported that the organization had locate requests for 833,820 tickets in 2013, which was an increase of 8.33 per cent over 2012. The landscape industry has almost doubled its locate requests over the last three years to a total of 94,500 last year. These requests resulted in more than 4,700,000 notifications to the various utility owners in 2013. Ont 1 Call will stop fax services by June of this year and will rely on both email and telephone for receiving locates requests.

Municipalities and underground mapping

Colin Saunders, of the Municipality of Brockton, gave a seminar on the problems of locating underground utilities in older townships, and some of the problems facing municipalities. In many cases, there are no records of locations, and mapping these underground assets becomes a real challenge. Most municipalities are building record files as repair work is carried out.

Alternate locate agreements

One of the seminars that was extremely well attended was Alternate Locate Agreements. It was led by Vicki Mitchell of Enbridge Gas, Program Manager of Damage Prevention. She indicated that we have only eight per cent of the total provincial locate requests involving ALAs, or 650,000 of the total 4,700,000 requests.

With major benefits to both excavators and utilities, all agreed that this locate approval process is a major opportunity in 2014 for everyone concerned. Utilities want to work on this challenge within the next 12 months. ALAs can reduce lead times, wait times and costs.  

ORCGA president’s report

Bryon Sackville, President of ORCGA, gave a state of the union address. Many challenges were outlined regarding public awareness and promotion, marketing to new potential members, selling sponsorships, and improving the public’s knowledge of underground prevention. New safety partnerships have been formed with the Children’s Village and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office in 2013.

ORCGA’s financial outlook is solid, with an increase in 2014 surplus projected over 2013 results. Sackville and his staff did a great job on the 2014 symposium. He indicated that new sponsorships, an increase in memberships, forming new alliances and increasing the ORCGA Geographic Council participation would be the focus for 2014.

Next year’s symposium will be in Niagara Falls in early February.

Awards dinner

There were many key awards presented during the awards evening. Some of the honours went to our landscape/horticultural industry.

Landscape Industry Excavator of the Year (second year in a row), LOMCO Landscape Contractors, Newmarket; Volunteers of the Year, Lyndsey McGrath, Enbridge Gas, and Lynn Chaput, Contract Management Services, Bell Tel; 2014 inductee into the ORCGA Hall of Fame, Jack Kottelenberg, President AVERTEX Utility Solutions, and yours truly Terry Murphy, ORCGA Board member representing Landscape Ontario.

The ORCGA symposium was a tremendous start for the year. The meetings were productive, the seminars informative, guest speakers were relevant and the networking invaluable. The 300 participants were committed to promote our underground damage prevention marketing efforts in 2014.
Contact Terry Murphy at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net with your suggestions, questions and comments on any underground damage prevention issue.