How do pipeline companies minimize their impact on vegetation?

Operators want to have as little impact as possible, so that once a pipeline is in place, there is little evidence it is there. Pipeline operators try to use techniques that will have minimal disturbance on the land, such as plowing. During the construction phase of a pipeline, plant life will be temporarily disturbed, but operators work hard to limit any disturbance – generally the area is fully recovered within five years.

Choosing a route with the least impact

Pipeline operators always conduct an environmental assessment – biologists assess the habitat, including vegetation, along a proposed pipeline route and evaluate the potential environmental effects and risks, and develop mitigative measures.

Native prairie, for instance, is an important habitat for many species, and pipeline operators try to design routes to avoid it.

Pipeline right-of-ways are monitored for years to ensure reclamation is successful. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Pipelines.

Pipeline right-of-ways are monitored for years to ensure reclamation is successful. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Pipelines.

Pipeline routes try to avoid sensitive habitats, species, soils and terrain.

Creating protection plans

For new pipelines, comprehensive environmental protection plans are developed, outlining measures to protect vegetation. Some of these practices include:

Volunteers pulling out burdock – an invasive plant. Photo courtesy of TransGas.

Volunteers pulling out burdock – an invasive plant. Photo courtesy of TransGas.

Minimizing the impact during construction

During construction, pipeline operators use a variety of methods to reduce impacts to vegetation. This can include directionally drilling under rivers, avoiding sensitive areas and restricting activities to times when the area is the least vulnerable.

In addition to protecting the native plants, pipeline companies make every effort possible to avoid introducing plants that shouldn’t be there – particularly invasive species that will try to compete with re-vegetation of the native species. Equipment is thoroughly cleaned to avoid spreading unwanted seeds or organisms, and soil is contained within a well-defined area.

Surveying the ROW in advance of construction - Photo Kinder Morgan

Surveying the ROW in advance of construction. Photo courtesy of TransMountain Expansion.

After construction, the land will be restored to as close to original condition as possible.

After construction, the land will be restored to as close to original condition as possible.

When soil is disturbed, the topsoil is set aside separately from the subsoil, so that the layers can be replaced correctly after construction.

Seeding September Banister 2014 Athabasca Pipeline Twinning Photo - EnbrSoil will be replaced in the same layers, and the land re-seeded. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Pipelines. idge

Soil is replaced in the same layers, and the land re-seeded. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Pipelines.

Pipeline operators take great care to bring the land back to its original condition.

Pipeline operators take great care to bring the land back to its original condition.

Returning the area to its natural state after construction

After construction, the land along the pipeline is restored, using plans developed by biologists and agrologists. The original soil is replaced, vegetation is replanted and the right-of-way re-seeded.

Pipeline companies monitor the reclaimed land for years afterward to ensure that the plants have been re-grown and the reclamation has been successful.

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