Bruce McTavish, a Professional Agrologist and Registered Professional Biologist, is a senior agricultural consultant with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and lead author of the Agricultural Assessment Technical Report for the Project. He has been involved in soil and habitat work, land reclamation and rehabilitation, environmental impact studies and the development of Environmental Guidelines. We recently sat down with Bruce to learn more about mitigation plans for the Project on agricultural land in British Columbia and Alberta — and to address misconceptions regarding the Project’s impacts on farm and ranchland.

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project includes construction of 994 kilometres of new pipeline. How much of the construction route for the expanded pipeline passes through agricultural land?

Approximately 481 kilometres run through agricultural land in British Columbia and Alberta. This represents almost 50 per cent of the length of construction for the expansion. It’s not only critical but also necessary to make our best efforts to ensure agricultural land is properly managed.

What are some of the top issues for cattle ranchers?

A rancher may have 3,000, 4,000 or 10,000 acres. One of the biggest issues is ensuring their cattle have access to grazing. If there’s going to be any temporary obstruction for grazing access during construction, they want to know that Trans Mountain will provide funds for the purchase of forage. We’re going to take care of that. We’re telling them ‘we’re going to give you enough money to buy forage.’

They’re concerned their cattle may wander into the construction area. We will put temporary fencing in all construction areas so there is no cattle access.

The other big issue for ranchers is making sure they have water for their cattle during construction. It’s absolutely critical if you’re a rancher. We will ensure all their cattle have access to water.

Invasive weeds are an issue for farmers and ranchers. What measures is TMEP taking to avoid introducing weeds during construction activity?

We can have two sources of weed introduction. It could be from one farm or ranch to another farm or ranch as we cross boundaries or from public lands as equipment is accessing. We have a very tight equipment cleaning protocol. As we move equipment between properties, the equipment is cleaned if necessary.

Will Trans Mountain be in contact with ranchers and farmers throughout construction to deal with potential issues?

Every property owner has a land agent assigned to them. The land agents are dealing with them on a regular basis to work out the details. The Agricultural Assessment Technical Report tells the land agents what they have to do and then the land agents will work out the details with the landowners. For example, where is a fence going to go, how much land is going to be out of access and where are we going to put watering troughs?

Typically, we’ll have the rancher tell us how much it’s going to cost, and normally, the ranchers want to do the work themselves because they have the equipment and they know what they’re doing. They do this sort of work all the time.

How confident are you that the Project will respect the concerns of farmers and ranchers?

Based on my experience on this pipeline and on other projects over many years, the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is doing more to ensure that agriculture and ranch lands are properly managed. This includes management of weeds, management of soil, drainage, irrigation, water supply, and of course, compensation to farmers when we cannot mitigate. I’m very confident we’ll be able to protect farmland and ranch land in British Columbia and Alberta.