Trans Mountain pipeline expansion moves ahead with Enoch Cree blessing

The Trans Mountain expansion project took a symbolic step forward Friday morning with a Cree blessing and groundbreaking ceremony at the project's equipment stockpile site located on First Nation land near Stony Plain, Alta.

Enoch site one of several to store construction materials, equipment needed for expansion

Corporate officials, politicians and Enoch Cree Nation leaders participated Friday in a blessing and groundbreaking of the stockpile site located on the Enoch Cree Nation near Stony Plain, Alta. (Kim Trynacity/CBC)

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project took a symbolic step forward Friday morning with a Cree blessing and groundbreaking ceremony at one of the project's equipment stockpile sites located on First Nation land near Stony Plain, Alta.

It's a $6-million investment, according to Enoch Cree Nation Chief William (Billy) Morin who expects the construction, maintenance and operation of the site will mean approximately 30 much needed new jobs. 

"You can get left behind, or you can choose to get in front and direct change," said Morin to a gathering of political, business, and community members on hand for the ceremony.

"We are proud of the relationship we have built with Trans Mountain and to partner with them on this project," Morin said, adding that it's his intention to pursue a stake in eventual ownership of the project along with other Alberta First Nations. 

"First Nations have a true opportunity to be investors, to be beneficiaries of the true treaty relationship going forward," he said.

Enoch is staging site

 The sod turning was also attended by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson.

The Enoch site will be used to stage all of the construction materials and equipment — including pipe, fittings, valves, and bends — needed for the 35 to 40 kilometres of pipe for Spread 1 of the expansion which stretches from Trans Mountain's Edmonton Storage Terminal in Strathcona County to Highway 60, just south of Acheson.

Notley called the Cree blessing an important step forward for the project and the relationship with First Nation communities. 

"It demonstrates just how integral our Indigenous communities are to the success of this pipeline and Alberta and Canada's economic future," she said.

Notley and Sohi dismissed concerns over another potential hurdle for the Trans Mountain pipeline project.   

According to the purchase agreement between the federal government and Kinder Morgan, completion of the deal is contingent in part on getting clearance from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investments, which reviews transactions that could affect the national security of the United States.

Ultimately, the purchase may have to be approved by U.S. president Donald Trump.

"This is not something we're worried about at all because this is just a normal process," Sohi said. 

"Canada is not a security threat to the United States."

New completion date

With the blessing, construction for the Enoch Cree stockpile site "can begin and we move that much closer to getting this pipeline built," Notley added.

In a six-month outlook filed with the National Energy Board earlier this month, Trans Mountain outlined its construction plans for the remainder of 2018.

The expectation is that temporary infrastructure sites — such as stockpile sites, construction yards and camps — will be developed along the entire route.

Preparation for Spread 2, which stretches about 290 kilometres between Edmonton and Jasper National Park, will begin Aug. 25. That work will include clearing of trees and vegetation, as well as weed control, relocation of rare plants and wildlife surveys.

Anderson said new pipe will start to go into the ground in January and February 2019 and that a new completion date for the entire project, which has faced several delays, will be released later this year.