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PG&E to Conduct Helicopter Patrols in Marin County to Ensure Natural Gas System Safety, Safe Digging Practices

Posted on April 24, 2020

PG&E Helicoptors

April is National Safe Digging Month

SAN RAFAEL, Calif.— Starting Monday, April 27, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will conduct routine low-level helicopter patrols to inspect gas transmission and distribution lines in Marin County, as part of our 6-month leak survey and maintenance program. A helicopter will fly over parts of Wolfback Ridge and San Rafael through April 30. Flights will be coming and going from the Hayward Executive Airport, the Napa County Airport and the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.

PG&E patrols remote gas lines, which are often located in rural areas, by helicopter as part of its continuing effort to ensure the safety and reliability of its natural gas system. If issues or obstructions are identified, it is possible helicopters may need to fly at a lower altitude for additional inspections.

Using LIDAR-based equipment, PG&E crews are combining the use of state-of-the-art leak detection technology with a streamlined repair process to find and fix leaks faster than ever before.

A spotter in the helicopter also uses a GPS-enabled tablet with mapping data to navigate the pipelines and document excavation and construction activity, or other observations that warrant follow-up. Where appropriate, PG&E ground personnel are sent to construction areas to verify that safe digging practices are being followed. This includes confirming the use of a valid 811 ticket for proper marking of underground utility lines that help prevent the gas line from being hit.

PG&E would like to remind its customers to call 811 or visit before starting outdoor projects where dirt us moved. Contractors with projects of all sizes are required by California Government Code 4216 to call 811 to have underground lines marked before digging, including contractors hired by a homeowner. This prevents strikes on underground lines. Strikes to underground lines is a public safety risk, causing damage and possibly injury. So far this year, there have been 9 strikes on gas lines in Marin County.

Weather permitting, flights will occur between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PG&E will fly in a contracted helicopter, likely a Bell 206B3 Long Ranger that is blue and white, like the attached photos.

Pilots will fly between 300 and 500 feet when conducting inspections.

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