Coastal GasLink reduces workforce ahead of spring thaw

Coastal GasLink says it has reduced its workforce in northern B.C. by two thirds over the last month, and that its rampdown will continue next week.

There were 1,200 working on the pipeline project in February, which had been reduced to 400 by the end of last week, the company said Thursday. The ramp-down will continue next week ahead of the spring thaw and as winter construction is completed, the company said.

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"To ensure our construction footprint is safe and secure during the spring thaw, we will continue to employ residents and local contractors to perform critical activities, including environmental monitoring, pipe delivery and stockpile," the company said in a statement.

"Local contractors will undertake some off right-of-way site preparation and maintenance as the spring thaw does not impact it."

In northeast B.C., just under 70% of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink route had been cleared as of March 19, according to the company website.

Progress west of Prince George varied from 0% on section seven from south of Houston to north of Morice Lake, to 38 per cent on section six from south of Burns Lake to south of Houston, to 66% on section eight from north of Morice Lake to Kitimat to 83% on section five from north of Vanderhoof to south of Burns Lake to 98% on section four from north of Prince George to north of Vanderhoof.

With spring breakup around the corner, the company expects a significantly lower workforce to be onsite before resuming clearing and beginning pipe installation this summer.

Smaller crews will be at work along the route and ensuring that workers and nearby communities are safe through its COVID-19 protection measures, said Coastal GasLink.

This includes having workers who are considered non-essential to working along the route at this time work from home instead. It also is continuing to work with provincial and local authorities on COVID-19 management.

As construction activities change and the size of its teams fluctuate, Coastal GasLink will continue to primarily employ B.C. workers, with 25% of them from Indigenous communities.

With the rapid developments around the COVID-19 situation, the company said it would continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate actions to maintain a safe work environment, minimize the risks of virus spread and ensure the safe operation of the pipeline and safe construction of the expansion project.

For its part, Trans Mountain said it has not experienced any delays to construction or impacts to pipeline operations at this time as it continues to operate the pipeline, a critical piece of national infrastructure.

Some of the actions that taken to date include implementing control measures at control centres, suspending all non-essential travel, safely operating facilities and construction sites, and transitioning to a work-from-home environment, where practicable.

- According to a March 18 report from Canadian Press, a Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief says all meetings and discussions about a draft deal that centres on Indigenous rights and land titles have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hereditary Chief Na'moks says it is a precaution to ensure the safety and health of their elders. He says they have no set date for continuation of the discussions.

- with files from the Citizen

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