The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

Veto Or Not, Pipeline Talk Big Here

And It's Serious: Pipeline Workforce Camps Here Discussed At Hearing

 

Bonnie Davidson / The Courier

Rick Perkins, senior project manager of TransCanada for logistics and services, addresses a crowd at the Valley County Courthouse on Tuesday, March 3, during a public hearing for the county planning and zoning commission. Perkins came with a team from the TransCanada and Target Logistics to answer questions about workforce camps that would be placed near Fort Peck and Hinsdale once the project finally meets approval.

The Valley County Planning and Zoning Commission held its first public hearing on work force camps proposed by TransCanada during the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Valley County would house two of the four proposed work camps in Montana, one near Hinsdale, the other between Nashua and Fort Peck. The meeting lasted a little over two hours.

A little over a dozen residents showed up to the public hearing, and an additional 10 employees of TransCanada and Target Logistics were at the meeting to help answer any questions the public might have. Rick Perkins, the senior project manager of logistics and services for TransCanada on the Keystone Pipeline projects, and Alan Lietz, the project manager for Montana, did most of the talking during the meeting, that ended up covering a lot more than just the work camps.

Perkins told those attending that this was the third public hearing on the worker camps, as two previous hearings had already taken place in Circle and in Baker for the work camps. He explained that the camps were going to have 838 dorm style beds and 300 recreational vehicle (RV) spots. He also gave a quick overview of where the project was at and challenges they had been facing. Mentioning that the Bridger Pipeline spill was an event that wouldn't happen with their pipeline and that the veto had discouraged the company.

Perkins explained that the work force camps would have three teams, a construction team, a management team and an inspection team. He also explained that the workforce camps located near Hinsdale and Fort Peck would be a part of the first spread (or segment) of the pipeline. He also explained that it would be in place between two and three years, with the first year just the staging, or set up of the work camps. He said the last year there would only be a small portion of people, 150 to 200, remaining for the restoration of the land where the pipeline would be laid down.

He said that the Circle camp would be the second spread and it would continue down the line like that all the way to the pipeline, that would connect to the first pipeline segment that was already built several years ago in Steele City, Neb.

"Overall, we could not start construction this year, even if the pipeline was approved," Perkins said. He added that they would focus on some of the infrastructure for the camps if the project were to be approved this year.

Two separate plans were reviewed by the planning and zoning commission in the county. Perkins said that what they thought would be only six months to get through the process has been more like 18 months. County Planner Renee Clampitt stated that TransCanada adhered to all of the conditions that the county had asked for.

Audience members asked how long it would take to build and what kind of infrastructure would be placed. Lietz answered and explained that the plan was to remove everything constructed on the work camps, so they would leave the land the way they found it, or the landowner could request something to be left behind. He warned that if a landowner wanted camp sites left behind, they would have to go through the permitting process with the county, as it was only a three year permit for TransCanada.

A question about how the camps would receive their water came up. The company reported that municipal water in Baker was going to work, but in Hinsdale, Fort Peck and in Circle, the water and wastewater treatment would be hauled in. The wastewater treatment plant would be a high tech system that would use chemicals to evaporate waste and leave behind a sludge that could be dumped in the landfill, or depending on requirements could be used as fertilizer.

Travis Jones, an engineer for Kadermas, Lee and Jackson that is involved in the planning and design in the work camps, explained that the plant was set up in a way to reduce odor and they hadn't seen any issues with odor in the system that was already being used in North Dakota. He said that they were working with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on the process for final approval. He said that this system will be a little more high-tech than what they've used before.

Perkins said that the water from the city of Glasgow wouldn't be used because of regulations, so water for the camp in Hinsdale would be trucked from Malta and the Fort Peck camp would utilize the rural water district.

"Subdivisions are typically not temporary; they are long term," Perkins said. "We've had some challenges."

A question on security of the camp was asked. It was explained that the camp would be surrounded by a six-foot fence with barbed wire and a contractor yard would be adjacent to the camp. The workers would have a morning safety meeting each day to address any concerns or safety issues. Work buses would be school buses riding to the work site around 7 a.m. each day. Perkins said that employees would be allowed in and out of the camp, but visitors weren't welcome without the proper identification. The approach in Fort Peck would be on Hwy. 117, near the gas plant.

Perkins went on and addressed what he said were typical questions on security. How would they control the behavior of employees in the camp? And how would they control that behavior in the community. He said that they had a strict code of conduct. One of the examples he gave was that no firearms were allowed on the premises or in their vehicles. While he said they wouldn't inspect vehicles, if they caught wind of the issue the employee could be kicked out of the camp.

He said that they couldn't fire employees, because they will be union workers under the construction company. A pattern of misbehavior would have to be shown to dismiss employees. He said that they can ask for drug and alcohol tests in the camps and that because the worker pays nothing to live there, it's a major incentive for them to behave so they could remain on the premises. Workers will have five-star chefs in a dining hall, they'll have a recreation facility, internet access, laundry services and more.

"If you give them a pleasant place to live, a good meal and a good place to sleep they'll provide good production," Perkins said.

He said workers also will have a six-day work week, with 10 hour shifts, plus the hour drive to and from the site. He said Saturday would be the night that the locals would see a lot of those workers come to town to shop or dine.

When addressing some of the community issues, he said that they would be under the same laws as for local residents. Often workers that find themselves in trouble don't last long. Later in the meeting he addressed their alcohol policy. He said that they had some "wet" camps, where alcohol was allowed, and they had "dry" camps. He said that these camps would be "damp" camps. They would allow alcohol in the rooms, but not in public areas. The idea is that they would be safer in the rooms with a few beers, then driving along Hwy. 2.

He added that a committee was usually formed to deal with grievances and behavior issues. The Holters from off Skylark Road and Cut Across Road commented that it wasn't the workers that had them worried.

"The workers aren't the problem; it's the stuff that follows them," Dan Holter said.

Perkins said that because it was a temporary location, unlike Bakken housing, it would stop some of those problems from following. He also commented that the workers tended to police themselves and unions had their own policies.

Two security guards would always be on location, one at the gate and one roaming the camp. Lietz added that they had a commitment to augment law enforcement when needed. Background checks would be up to the contractors. Perkins confirmed that they don't do background testing, but they did do drug and alcohol testing. Kelly added that his company did do background testing. Some of the management positions might also have background testing done.

Next week in The Courier: More concerns about the proposed Valley county pipeline workforce camps.

 

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