Among your monthly bills, you may have noticed that unlike mobile phones, expanded television channels and Internet access, you only have one option when it comes to purchasing your electricity. The reason is not because of a lack of companies which provide the power, but because of Iowa law. In the late 1970's, the Iowa Legislature determined that the Iowa Utilities Board should designate service territories for each electric utility throughout the state, so that no services overlap. The rationale was avoid duplication of utility facilities, and to promote economical, efficient, and adequate electric service to the public. The Iowa Utilities Board recently released an updated map designating the service territories throughout the state. Of course, disputes always arise regarding these boundaries, so the map changes.
The U.S. Department of Transportation created the Common Ground Task Force in 1998 which undertook the Common Ground Study of the nations' One Call Systems. Many recommendations came out of the Study and the Common Ground Alliance was formed to further the work of the Task Force. Their work resulted in the Best Practices Guidance (most recently amended in March 2007) which describes the actions to be taken to reduce the damage to underground facilities and a nationwide call-in system which uses the number 811. When you call 811 anywhere in the country it routes you to the state's One Call center. (Iowa One Call will keep its number and will field the 811 calls.)
Common Ground Iowa (CGI) is a regional partner with the Common Ground Alliance. The CGI's stated purpose is to promote public safety through damage prevention and shared responsibility, while utilizing the Common Ground Alliance's Best Practices for advancing underground utility safety in Iowa.
They have created a Common Ground Iowa Steering Committee made up of Alliant Energy, U.S. DOT, Synder & Associates, Qwest, Iowa One Call, Aquila, Consolidated Utility Services, IUB, Northern Natural Gas, ELM Locating, Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities to name most that have attended their three meetings. CGI has adopted a constitution and by-laws and is currently conducting a membership drive. They hope to elect officers at their next meeting (December) and to disband the Committee.
CGI's website address is http://www.commongroundiowa.com. CGI welcomes and is actively seeking new members.
Next CGI meeting: is Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at West Des Moines Learning Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines, Iowa. The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m. and will last approximately 4 hours.