Looking out at his land, Charles Barber can hardly believe what he sees. Or, maybe more properly, what he doesn’t see.
”The ground doesn’t look any different than it did beforehand,” he remarks. Barber’s farm was located along the route of the first phase of the Keystone pipeline. In the planning stages, he worked with TransCanada officials, who recognized the importance of making sure that his land was returned to its original state.
“You farm it; you don’t even know it’s there. This hasn’t changed any of our process on the way we farm.”
The ballad of Charles Barber and his family’s farm is just one example of TransCanada’s process towards reclamation. Before the first shovel goes in the ground, plans have already begun for the cleanup process. Once the construction is complete, TransCanada’s team and contractors work tirelessly to ensure the equivalent land capability and biological diversity is maintained.
“The specifics of how long we have to continue to monitor an area are set by the regulator,” said Justin Packer with TransCanada’s Environmental team. “But our commitment runs much deeper than that. When we come into an area, we do so with the trust of the landowners and community. We stay until our partners are satisfied, whether that means five, 10 or 20 years.”
As part of the process of developing a Construction Mitigation and Reclamation Plan, TransCanada collects data identifying soil type, physical characteristics, depth of topsoil, and land-use. This information is used to establish the depth of topsoil stripping and the appropriate soil handling procedure for each parcel of land traversed by the pipeline. The objective is to establish procedures to be employed to maintain the agricultural capability of the soil and avoid the potential for degradation of topsoil from mixing, compaction, rutting, or loss of organic matter.
To avoid soil mixing, topsoil is salvaged and stored separately from subsoil and other construction related activities. After pipeline installation is complete, subsoil is replaced to the trench and disturbed right-of-way to re-establish the land’s natural contours. Following this, the topsoil is also then returned across the disturbed right-of-way and the topsoil conservation activities are complete.
TransCanada has nearly 50,000 miles of pipelines running across the continent, and every one of these requires that we communicate openly and honestly with the stakeholders and landowners along our route. When pipeline construction is complete, we work closely with environmental experts and landowners to restore their land back to its original state and productivity level. We monitor environmental reclamation for years following construction, and our job isn’t done until landowners and regulatory agencies are satisfied.