pipelines must cross the countryside to deliver products over long
distances, the pipeline has many neighbors. The pipeline crosses
under creeks and rivers, highways and roads, farmers’ fields,
parks, and may be close to homes, businesses or other community
Written agreements, or easements, between landowners and pipeline
companies allow pipeline companies to construct and maintain pipeline
rights-of-way across privately owned property. Most pipelines are
buried below ground in a right-of-way. The working space needed
during initial construction may be temporarily wider but the permanent
right-of-way width varies depending on the easement, the pipeline
system, the presence of other nearby utilities and the land use
along the right-of-way. Many of the rights-of-way are 50 feet wide,
but may be wider or narrower in specific locations.
These rights-of-way are kept clear to allow the pipeline to be
safely operated, aerially surveyed and properly maintained. Pipeline
companies are responsible for maintaining their rights-of-way to
protect the public and environment, the line itself, and other customers
from loss of service. Pipeline rights-of-way are located in urban,
suburban, and rural communities.
A strip of land usually about 25 to 150 feet wide containing the
pipeline is known as the pipeline right-of-way (ROW). The ROW:
- enables workers to gain access for inspection, maintenance,
testing or emergencies
- maintains an unobstructed view for frequent aerial surveillance
- identifies an area that restricts certain activities to protect
the landowner, the community through which the pipeline passes
and the pipeline itself.
While permanent pipeline markers are located at roads, railways
and other intervals along the ROW, these show only the approximate
location of the buried pipelines. The depth and location of the
pipelines vary within the ROW. The ROW exists in many kinds of terrain
from river crossings and cultivated fields to urban areas. Because
of this, there is no distinct "look" to the ROW.
Any excavation project within the right-of-way or near the right-of-way,
requires the excavator to contact the local “One Call”
center to tell them when and where digging will occur. If a local
call center is unknown, excavators can call the Dig Safely national
referral number 1-888-258-0808.
Some people mistakenly believe that they don't need to contact
a one-call center because they think they can tell the precise location
of a pipeline by drawing a straight line between right-of-way marker
signs. This is a myth for two main reasons:
- Right-of-way markers along a pipeline route or at a grade crossing
only show the approximate location of a pipeline because the right-of-way
they are marking is much wider than the pipeline. Thus, the markers
are not always located precisely over a line. (Nor do the markers
indicate the depth of the line.)
- A pipeline may curve or make an angle underground as it runs
between markers in order to avoid some natural or manmade feature
such as a historical site or another underground facility such
as a television cable.
Using the one-call system when digging around an energy pipeline,
or any other underground feature, is the only way to determine the
true location of a pipeline. Even after the area has been marked,
any digging around the marks should be carefully conducted to precisely
locate the facility. Besides - calling before you dig is the law
in most states.