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An Enbridge employee's view: Done right, pipeline projects not even noticeable

John Jenkins

As a person with a great appreciation for nature, I can understand the concern people in lakes country have for the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.

I grew up in California and would take trips to Yosemite, backpacking in Big Bear and the Kern River, where my mom was a raft guide in the summer while we were in grade school. My mom always spoke about protecting the environment. While we would kayak in the ocean we would collect trash and she would make it a game. Her appreciation for a natural way of leaving and being a protector of the environment was instilled in me.

I started my career at Enbridge as a land surveyor in 2007. My first project involved getting a profile of every tributary from Wisconsin Rapids down to Portage, Wis. I was 22 and very excited to be working outside and using a canoe to paddle through creeks and rivers while getting profiles of each tributary.

I remained with that pipeline-installation project when construction began with people from all over: local union workers and contractors from Louisiana, Michigan, Texas, and the East and West coasts. It was truly organized chaos with long pipe trucks, huge pieces of equipment, and campers filling up every campground around. I truly saw the down-and-dirty side of pipeline construction. I saw the clearing crew cutting down the trees, the ditching crew making a long trench, and the pipe strung out as far as the eye could see.

Most of all, I felt uncertainty, an internal conflict; I saw these teams pull up the earth of the tributaries I surveyed. What was I doing here?

I continued the job with the promise that I heard from an Enbridge colleague who said that the reason we got a thorough profile of the land, including each and every tributary, was so we could put it back either as good as or better than before.

I had the pleasure of being around through the "clean-up phase." It was my job to go back through the area and do a grade check to make sure the earth was, in fact, put back to its original condition. I must say the amount of time and thoughtfulness put into restoration was astonishing.

Did it look the same as it did before? Not right away, but seeds were scattered, trees were planted, and fences were put back up. In time you would hardly realize there was a pipeline installed there at all. I felt proud again.

Now I am a safety officer for the company. I've learned a lot about Enbridge's commitment to the safety of workers, the environment, and its assets — and I was able to see it firsthand.

I recently had the privilege of looking down the old right-of-way of the project I worked on 10 years ago. I was amazed. Just like Enbridge promised: it's hard to tell anything is there.

John Jenkins is a project safety specialist for Enbridge, working in Duluth.