Palmer: a nod to the TMX project for helping fix Coquihalla

Opinion: Pipeline construction crews helped restore access to several key areas, helping to recover the highway

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VICTORIA – Transportation Minister Rob Fleming on Wednesday praised British Columbia’s road crews and contractors for preparing the Coquihalla for a partial return to service starting next week.

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Fleming called the reestablishment of bus and truck traffic on a freeway that was shut down at 20 locations just a month ago as “one of the most remarkable engineering feats in memory in British Columbia” .

So that was it. But when the full story of this extraordinary restoration effort is told, it should include a nod to Trans Mountain.

When Trans Mountain undertook a pre-emptive shutdown of its pipeline through British Columbia last month, the company said it was well positioned with the crews and resources to make the necessary repairs. These workers and heavy equipment were already in place due to the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, a twin line that is largely parallel to the existing line.

“We have crews and equipment in the Fraser Valley, Coquihalla and Interior BC regions as part of the expansion project and regular operations,” the statement said. Trans Mountain’s initial press after the Nov. 14 shutdown.

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“We are in contact with Emergency Management British Columbia and have offered our support and assistance in any way we can, including providing beds in our camp community in Merritt to the evacuees.”

Subsequent press releases would highlight how the Trans Mountain workforce swiftly kicked into action “helping communities and local authorities clear the roads and providing equipment and resources.”

On Friday of that first week, Trans Mountain said it had “over 200 people working around the clock” to restore access along the pipeline route.

“Crews are beginning helicopter operations in the Coldwater area to remove fallen trees and debris that is hampering detailed inspection of the pipeline in this area,” the statement said. “Another key priority remains access to land in affected areas, and we are actively helping the Ministry of Transportation clear the roads. “

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With long sections of the pipeline exposed along waterways, the company sent spill response equipment to the area as a precaution. Fortunately, it was not necessary.

A week after the shutdown, already the longest in the history of the 70-year-old pipeline, Trans Mountain’s workforce had grown to 350.

Rivers had already been diverted. The company was close to completing a temporary bridge over the Coldwater River, providing access to more remote parts of the route for work on pipelines and highways.

Ten days later, Trans Mountain had set up “seven assembly zones in the worst affected areas.” Our response includes over 400 people, seven helicopters and over 100 pieces of heavy equipment in the Coquihalla and Coldwater areas. “

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As successive atmospheric rivers dumped more rain and snow, the company added two plows, two plows, and 30 sets of pumps and hoses to handle the water accumulation.

At the onset of the crisis, Trans Mountain crews also helped “with transportation, fuel, food and water supplies, supplying necessary equipment, and substantial road clearing and construction efforts. bridges to connect communities that are / were completely cut off due to floods and landslides.

Coldwater and Nooaitch First Nations were among the communities that were assisted.

Teams from the TMX contractor worked with the road maintenance contractor to clear landslides on Routes 1 and 5 and to repair culverts in the Hope area.

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The company sent trucks, workers and sandbags to the critical Barrowtown pumping station in Abbotsford as it was at risk of being submerged by flood water.

Updating the effort on Wednesday, Trans Mountain said that with the line restored (albeit at reduced capacity), a lot of work remains to be done.

“With ground access to all sites now established, teams are focusing on pavement repairs to backfill exposed areas, fortify berms and plan to return to full capacity,” he said. .

“Trans Mountain will continue this emergency work throughout the winter to fortify the pipeline right-of-way for spring runoff. Teams are focused on rehabilitating sites impacted by heavy rains and flooding in areas north of Hope and south of Merritt.

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The company also recalled how “Trans Mountain used its expansion project and operational crews and equipment to restore access to the pipeline lost due to damaged roads, changes in river flow and inclement weather. Hundreds of people worked around the clock to clean up highways, build bridges and manage waterways to allow pipeline access and repairs.

The company estimates that the damage to its line and the repair will cost tens of millions of dollars. It is not yet clear whether this will also delay the planned completion of TMX beyond the end of 2022 target.

The main focus of Trans Mountain’s efforts over the past month was, of course, to restart the pipeline.

Fleming and other NDP ministers praised Trans Mountain for its efforts to restore the existing line, important as it is to the gasoline supply here in British Columbia.

The New Democrats fought the expansion plan with “all the tools in the toolbox” and have not changed their opposition to the now federally owned and 40 percent complete project.

But whether the Flemings and his colleagues are quick to recognize it or not, Trans Mountain’s efforts to restore access to the Coquihalla area have also facilitated the restoration of the highway itself.

And it surely helped that the workforce and equipment at Trans Mountain were already in place, thanks to the TMX project.

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