Prince George will be a hub of construction activity for the Coastal GasLink pipeline project once mainline construction on sections three and four of the project begins in late August, according to TC Energy public affairs manager Kiel Giddens.
Giddens and Coastal GasLink project engineer Jamie Mior gave an update on the controversial project to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George on Thursday. Calgary-based TC Energy is the primary partner in the $6.6 billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline project which would link northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal currently under construction in Kitimat.
"Prince George is the economic hub for the region and will be for our project," Giddens said. "Prince George will (also) be a our B.C. head office for TC Energy as we operate the pipeline."
Since January, sections of pipe manufactured in Regina, Sask. have been arriving in the city by rail, he said. On average 20 to 25 truckloads of pipe are moved from the railway siding to Coastal GasLink's stockpile site on Industrial Way, and are expected to continue into March.
"So far we've stockpiled about 52 km of pipe at our site in Prince George," Giddens said. "We're quickly filling up the current site."
The sections of pipe are up to 80 feet long, Mior said, and specialized trailers are used to transport them. Once the pipeline sections are stockpiled in Prince George, they will be trucked to stockpile sites along the construction route, he added.
A traffic safety plan is in place to manage traffic into and out of the work camps and construction sites, Mior added.
Railway blockades in New Hazelton, Ontario and elsewhere in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who attempted to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink project south of Huston, B.C. haven't impacted shipments of pipe to Prince George, Giddens said. The majority of the pipe is being made in Saskatchewan, with some additional pipe being imported from Japan and India, he said.
Because of the city's position as the major business, industry and population centre in northern B.C., people and businesses from Prince George are working on every section on the project, he added. One Prince George business is building a bridge for the project near the coast, for example.
The company expects to spend about $1 billion with local and indigenous businesses during construction, and $42 million per year once operations begin.
"We've got about 1,200 people working right now. That will only increase as we begin mainline production," Giddens said.
Giddens didn't provide a specific number of employees which would be based in Prince George, but the project, at its peak, will employee up to 2,500 people across northern B.C. Up to 1,200 workers will be based at the Parsnip Lodge camp located approximately 45 km northeast of Bear Lake, which is already under construction.
As of November, 2019 82 per cent of people working on the project were British Columbians and 25 per cent self-identified as indigenous.
"We have project agreements with all the elected bands (along the route)," Giddens said. "Many Wet'suwet'en people are working on the project."
The camp will serve sections three and four of the project, a 193 km section of the project stretching from south of Mackenzie to north of Vanderhoof.
Clearing of the right of way in section three is 52 per cent complete, and section four is 75 per cent clear.
Addressing the elephant in the room, Giddens said Coastal GasLink only resorted to requesting the RCMP to enforce a court injunction to remove protestors blocking work on the project after dialog failed to find a resolution.
"Despite that enforcement action, we remain committed to dialog with all First Nations on the route," GIddens said. "We will never give up on finding a peaceful, long-term solution to this."