If all goes to plan, pipe installation for the section of the Coastal GasLink pipeline which runs parallel to Houston will begin late next spring, peaking in the Fall of 2021.
At their June 16 council meeting TC Energy Public Affairs Coordinator Tanner Moulton gave the District of Houston an update on the current activities taking place within the section, as well as the number of changes to how operations are proceeding in light of COVID-19.
In addressing council he noted a number of team members had been working on the project since 2012.
“The magnitude of work to get to where we are now has been absolutely staggering and we couldn’t have done it without the support from northern B.C. and Indigenous communities,” said Moulton, thanking the District for their support for the project in past years and recognizing the value of LNG within the community. “The world has really changed but our commitment remains the same. Our first priority remains to be the health and safety of our workforce, their families and our Indigenous and local communities.”
He also highlighted a number of enhanced sanitary protocols in place at the pipeline’s workforce accommodations, including on-site dedicated medical service providers which can be accessed by workers 24-7 and enhanced prescreening measures for workers coming into worksites. Where in the past busses used to transport workers would carry as many as 40, Moulton said these vehicles are now down to transporting less than 10 people at a time.
Currently neither of the two accommodation camps being built in the area — Site 9A and Huckleberry Lodge — are in operation, however Moulton said development of the initial phase of the lodge is scheduled for the end of July.
In terms of pipeline workers living in the community, he noted that due to COVID-19 measures workforce accommodations in Houston and its neighbouring sections currently have significantly-reduced occupancy.
In total, between sections 6 to 8 there are approximately 70 workers staying in Houston hotel accommodations.
To this point, Moulton added that TC Energy is looking for guidance from local municipalities about how and to what degree they would like to see employees out in the community.
“We’re also seeking your advice, as we continue to seek guidance on how our workers can be safe in your community,” he said, adding that while the company wants to provide its employees with a chance to experience local recreation opportunities in the region that they want to ensure they are doing so with the blessing of the respective municipalities they live and work in.
“We want to get your views on whether coastal gaslink employees are welcome at local retail businesses restaurants and services,” said Moulton.
To council, the answer seemed to be a resounding yes.
“For the most part I think people are very aware that there are a lot of workers and new people in town, and I’m not hearing a lot of concerns or complaints at this time,” said Mayor Shane Brienen.
Other councillors agreed.
“I think most people welcome the workers in town here,” said Coun. Tim Anderson. “I think for us as council as long as … the people that are in town are respecting the businesses protocols that they’re following [that] I wouldn’t see any controversy with them spending time in town.”
Moulton noted that workers currently staying in Houston are still under the same protocols with regard to safety and sanitation while staying in the town and will still have access to the same support services they would have on-site, including by not limited to 24-7 access to a medical service provider.
He said it also has positive economic implications for an industry which relies heavily on a currently-dwindling tourism market.
“It does provide economic opportunities for local hotel operators and restaurants that provide takeout delivery services.”
Currently Moulton said they will have approximately 800 workers across the project by the end of June. By the end of July this will increase to approximately 1,200 workers. By late August/early September approximately 2,500 to 3,000 workers will be employed across the project’s service area.
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