Canadian prairies say goodbye to Enbridge ‘yellow iron’

Final topsoil replacement spells the end of major project work on new Line 3 pipeline

On a sunny Friday afternoon in late August, some 230 kilometers southeast of Regina near the hamlet of Kelso, Saskatchewan, a small grading crew replaced the final blades of topsoil along the 1,070-km Canadian Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP) right-of-way.

By Saturday, Aug. 22, the soil had been cultivated and contoured, crimped straw laid down to avoid erosion from the prairie winds, and the final piece of land along the pipeline route was ready to return to productive agricultural use.

“The yellow iron (heavy equipment) is all off the right-of-way,” says Al Sawatzky, L3RP Construction Manager, referring to the color of the heavy equipment used during construction. “It’s very satisfying.

“The farming part of the job—seeding, straw crimping, weed control—is ongoing. We will continue to monitor the right-of-way and complete our warranty work. We don’t walk away from any of our commitments.”

The completion of reclamation along the new pipeline route spells the end of major project work on the replacement pipeline, which carried on over four seasons of intense field activity (2017 to 2020) and three years of regulatory and prep work preceding construction (2013 to 2016).

Only the decommissioning of legacy Line 3 remains to complete the entire project scope. Decommissioning is anticipated to occur over two phases, beginning in the spring of 2021 with expected completion in fall 2022.

“This is one of the largest projects in Enbridge’s history and it’s been extremely well executed, with a stellar safety, environment and quality performance throughout,” says Dave Lawson, Enbridge’s Vice President of Major Projects.

“I’d like to acknowledge our appreciation for the tremendous support we’ve received from governments, landowners, municipalities and Indigenous communities, labor unions, business organizations such as chambers of commerce, and industry associations like CAEPLA (the Canadian Association of Pipeline Landowners’ Associations),” he adds. “Having such a broad spectrum of society ‘on board’ from the beginning was critical to getting the project off the ground and maintaining momentum throughout.”

This year’s final reclamation is an excellent example of successful project execution. The work, which took place over 10 weeks this summer in southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba, came in with a zero TRIF (Total Recordable Injury Frequency), and no environmental incidents.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, Enbridge put in place a Safe Work Protocol to prevent potential spread of the virus and ensure the health and safety of the 230-strong workforce.

Almost 25,000 temperature checks were conducted during the project, all of them negative results with no one requiring a visit to the onsite paramedic. Five workers who declared they were not feeling well needed to leave the site for COVID testing and then self-isolated for 14 days, following the protocol. All later returned to work.

(TOP PHOTO: A bulldozer helps to spread the final topsoil along the Line 3 Replacement Program's right-of-way on the Canadian prairies.)