Construction will start this summer on Enbridge's 1,700-kilometre Line 3 replacement pipeline, the largest project the company has ever undertaken.
Several pipeline projects have been proposed to pass through the Prairies, though this will be the first to proceed. The $7.5-billion Line 3 replacement from Hardisty, Alta., to Superior, Wis., was approved by Justin Trudeau's Liberal government last fall, at the same time as the Trans Mountain expansion.
Equipment is already being assembled in Hardisty, 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, where work on the Line 3 replacement is scheduled to begin on Aug. 1. After years of economic stagnation, Hardisty Mayor Anita Miller is optimistic about opportunity in rural Alberta.
"I hope it's a positive note for everybody who's ... waiting for approvals, and waiting to put their shovels in the dirt," Miller said.
'We are definitely used to having all this construction'
The replacement project will be built in phases.
Two stretches — from Hardisty to Luseland, Sask., and from Rosetown, Sask., to Regina — will be built this year. The second phase, which will include the rest of the Canadian construction, will happen next year.
Enbridge representatives have been travelling to the towns near the construction sites, said company spokesperson Suzanne Wilton.
"We've been really encouraged by the excitement and support that people have in these small towns," Wilton said.
The oil tank farm near Hardisty has seen a few small building projects over the past few years, but Miller said the community can handle much more.
"We are definitely used to having all this construction," Miller said. "When it's gone it really hurts our businesses."
The Line 3 replacement project is expected to bring between 600 and 800 workers to town.
"The restaurants, the motels, the gas stations, the grocery stores, everybody would see a benefit," Miller said.
'An essential safety maintenance project'
Enbridge is targeting 2019 completion, but is still waiting on U.S. regulatory approvals.
"We have worked hard to engage with all of our stakeholders on this project," Wilton said. "We recognize there are different points of view on the energy that we all use and we'll continue to engage with communities and that dialogue and work with stakeholders to address their concerns as we move forward."
The company is still working to fulfil the conditions that were attached to the Canadian approvals, but Wilton said she is confident they will be met before construction starts.
Replacing the existing 34-inch pipeline with a 36-inch pipeline will bring the volume of oil passing through back up to 760,000 barrels per day after years of operating at half capacity.
The existing Line 3 pipeline will continue to operate until the replacement is completed, then will be decommissioned.