OF JUSTICE GENERAL COUNSEL DIVISION
Public Utility Commission
Chief, Pipeline Safety
550 Capitol Street NE
Salem, OR 97310-1380
FROM: Paul A. Graham, Attorney-in-Charge
Regulated Utility & Business Section
asked whether cities, on the one hand, or homeowners and businesses,
on the other, are responsible for locating sewer laterals. You have
told me that the question arises because, although the vast majority
of cities (and sewer districts) are willing to locate sewer laterals,
there are a handful that are refusing. Cities in the latter category
claim that it is the responsibility of the homeowners and businesses
to locate the laterals because they have legal title to the laterals.
the laterals extend from the sewer main, which is usually located under
a city street, all the way to homes and businesses, you are concerned
with only those parts of laterals that are in the public right-of-way.
I believe the cities are responsible for marking the laterals that are
in the public right-of way.
Assembly created the Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC) in ORS
757, Oregon Laws 1995. Section 1 of that chapter sets forth definitions. Section 1(10) defines “operator”
public utility, municipal corporation, political subdivision of the
state or other person with control over underground facilities.”
Assembly used “operator” rather than “owner” because an owner may not
always have control over underground facilities. It made those in control
of underground facilities responsible for marking them, not those who
happen to have legal title to those facilities.
told me that cities typically require owners of homes and businesses
to install laterals to city specifications. Although protesting cities
assert that the owner has legal title to the lateral, the owner in fact
has no administrative or operational control over the lateral in the
public right-of-way. That part of the lateral is controlled and operated
by the city. The part of the lateral on private property, on the other
hand, is the responsibility of the owner because the owner does have
the operational and administrative control of that piece of it.
correct in pointing out that, as a practical matter, the owners of homes
and businesses will rarely have knowledge of the route of a lateral,
the expertise to locate it, or the equipment to perform a locate. On
the other hand, the city, as the operator, would likely know where the
lateral is, as it controlled the installation, and it would have the
expertise and equipment to perform the locate.
It is these
practical considerations that led the Legislative Assembly to look to
operators, rather that owners, as the persons or entities responsible
for locating underground facilities.
also focus on section 4 of ORS
757. It requires every operator of an underground facility to subscribe
to the OUNC. If the protesting cities are correct, then every person
in this state with any kind of service line lateral (not just a sewer
lateral) in a public right-of-way would be required to join the OUNC.
There is no suggestion anywhere in ORS 757 that the law was designed
to deal with those who own homes and businesses served by laterals.
wish to share this memorandum with those cities refusing to locate sewer
laterals. I will be happy to talk with representatives of those cities,
especially their city attorneys.