Another season verifying quality construction and soil handling

By Dave Baspaly 

“Our monitors will document the first shovel full of dirt removed until the last shovel full is replaced.”

CAEPLA’s work on behalf of landowners along the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP) has entered its fourth construction and reclamation year. This means we’re in the fourth year of reliance upon Infocus construction monitors to verify continued respect for landowner interests along L3RP.

Activity to place the land in as close to original condition as possible continues on all 9 L3RP construction spreads from Hardisty, Alta. to Gretna, Man. Soil handling and reclamation are being monitored carefully by Infocus personnel who have been documenting the quality of work throughout the project. When deficiencies occur — and they do on every project, no matter how well managed — our monitors record the area of concern and follow it until the problem has been completely addressed.

To date, Enbridge has been very responsive. Yet, CAEPLA landowners and leaders must remain vigilant to document and notify Enbridge land agents about deficiencies which crop up long after Infocus monitors are gone. Sometimes soil subsidence and weed issues can persist for many years following construction. 

CAEPLA member landowners also negotiated with TC Energy (TC) to place Infocus monitors on the West Path Delivery Pipeline (WPDP), running north and south through Cochrane, Alta. That project began last year and is scheduled for completion- soil reclamation this year.

Though TC has always proclaimed its intention to treat all landowners the same, to date, only CAEPLA landowners receive the benefit of construction monitors on TC projects. This is a significant difference from the Enbridge policy to fund independent monitors to cover all privately held lands — regardless of member affiliation.

An Infocus monitor was present last fall on WPDP covering survey, fencing, soil stripping, storing, pipeline trenching and backfilling activities on CAEPLA member lands. At each of these stages on any project, company actions either ensure the safe conservation of valuable soils or lead to their loss.

TC Energy (in agreement with CAEPLA members) left the WPDP trench open to the elements over the winter while topsoil remained stored on the side. In most situations, this reflects best practice so that subsoils are allowed adequate time to settle with the help of fall, winter and spring precipitation, before topsoils are placed back on the trench line. As long as topsoils are stored carefully, this practice gives nature the best opportunity to achieve normal compaction of soils around the pipeline and minimize future subsidence. This practice minimizes the number of times soils are handled. Every time your soil is manipulated, there is opportunity for some to be lost to a combination of wind and water erosion or sloppy soil handling.

These projects — L3R and WPDP — represent a tiny fraction of oil and gas industry activity taking place this season on privately held lands across Canada. The TransMountain Pipeline (TMX) is beginning construction. Every Canadian taxpayer has a stake in its careful, respectful and efficient construction and maintenance. To date, Infocus construction monitors have not been invited to play the key role they are trained and experienced to perform to ensure that landowner interests are protected.

A number of pipeline companies are conducting annual integrity digs this season to expose, examine and repair (if necessary) pipelines to ensure safe operation where instruments indicate there may be a weakness developing in the pipe. So far, none of these companies are employing independent monitors to ensure the protection of soils and landowner interests, which are placed at risk in every bit the same way as when a pipeline is initially constructed.

Often these small projects are conducted with less scrutiny and care than major projects.

You have a role to play in seeing that independent construction monitors become the standard for ensuring that your interests are protected.

Join or become more active in your CAEPLA chapter. And speak to the land agents and company representatives for those companies operating oil and gas facilities in your area. Let them know that you are aware that independent construction monitors have played a vital role in making sure that recent projects have practiced respect for landowner concerns. Urge them to apply this same vigilance to your land and your interests.

Dr. Dave Baspaly is an experienced corporate leader and a certified management consultant with a remarkable ability to help people increase performance and achieve strategic goals.

Pipeline Observer


Landowner-driven, CAEPLA advocates on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners to promote safety and environmental protection through respect for your property rights.