Safe Clearance for Electrical Lines Over Waterways

social-image-logo-og-300x300A fun day out on the water could turn into a fatal accident, if the mast of your sailboat comes into contact with a low electrical line. In order to keep the public safe, the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) publishes clearance requirements for electrical lines that hang over bodies of water.

The NESC clearance requirements are different depending on whether or not the waterway is suitable for sailboating. Additionally, the NESC publishes separate clearance requirements for areas that are posted for rigging or launching sailboats. Where the body of the water is not suitable for sailing or where sailing is prohibited, the minimum clearance for electrical lines is always 17 feet.

In waterways suitable for sailing, the NESC clearance requirement changes depending on the surface area of the body of water. The larger the body of water, the higher the required clearance. Below are the NESC clearances for waterways suitable for sailing:

  • If the surface area is less than 20 acres, the minimum clearance is 20.5 feet;
  • If the surface area is between 20 and 200 acres, the minimum clearance is 28 feet;
  • If the surface area is between 200 and 2,000 acres, the minimum clearance is 34 feet; and
  • If the surface area is over 2,000 acres, the minimum clearance is 40 feet.

As with the waterways suitable for sailing, NESC clearances for electrical lines in areas posted for rigging or launching sailboats change depending on surface area of the body of water. Below are the NESC clearance requirements for land or water areas that are posted for rigging or launching sailboats:

  • If the surface area is less than 20 acres, the minimum clearance is 25.5 feet;
  • If the surface area is between 20 and 200 acres, the minimum clearance is 33.5 feet;
  • If the surface area is between 200 and 2000 acres, the minimum clearance is 39.5 feet; and
  • If the surface area is over 2000 acres, the minimum clearance is 45.5 feet.

Clearances are measured based upon the highest water level. If the body of water is uncontrolled, the clearance is measured based upon the normal flood level. The NESC provides that, if available, the ten-year flood level may be assumed as the normal flood level.

If you see an electrical line over a waterway that appears to be low, you should not attempt to sail beneath it or launch your sailboat near it. Instead, you should call the local utility company and notify them of the low hanging wire. The utility company will be able to safely raise the wire.

If you were in an accident involving an electrical line over a waterway, you should call the experienced injury attorneys at Kraft Davies. The utility company or a third party may be liable if the electrical lines did not meet clearance requirements. You may be entitled to certain damages or compensation. Please call Kraft Davies at (206) 624-8844 or contact us through this website.