Athabasca Basin Road Services Employs Northern Workers for SaskPower Brush Clearing Contract

March 3, 2012 in News People
Explorer: Spring 2012

Athabasca Basin Road Services is working on a contract with SaskPower, clearing vegetation from around powerlines in the Athabasca area that deliver electricity to some Northern Saskatchewan communities. Facing rough terrain and winter conditions, employees of the locally owned company removed trees, brush, and plants from an area nearly 40km long and, at times, 35m wide. And it is all done by hand.

“There is lot of debris to cut down and move to a safe area,” says Bart Smith, Manager of Athabasca Basin Road Services. “I’m very proud of the job our employees are doing to help SaskPower ensure the Northern communities continue to receive uninterrupted power service.”

If left unchecked, vegetation can disrupt the power supply. Trees can sometimes grow directly into a power line and cause power outages.

In most of the province, easy access to the areas allows vegetation to be cleared by heavy equipment. But in the rough, remote terrain in the North, these areas can’t be accessed by equipment and need to be cleared manually. This means getting a team of people to cut down all the brush and move it by hand.

The terrain can be very difficult at times, with winter causing slippery conditions that can add to the difficulties. Water and rocky ground must be crossed, and cliffs that have 30m drops need to be climbed, to get the job done. Often, workers will live in nearby camps for the weeks until a job is completed.

Training is key to the success of the project. The company funded training for 22 residents from Uranium City and Fond du Lac, which included safety, First Aid and CPR, and a certified chainsaw operating course. “What’s really exciting about this project is that we are employing people from the local area,” says Smith. “The company provides employees with the same training course the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment uses to train on proper chainsaw use. This gives Northern workers transferable skills that will help them obtain meaningful employment. We are also supporting the local economies by purchasing goods and services locally whenever possible. These initiatives are part of our commitment to supporting Northern communities.”

“It’s been exceptional working with SaskPower,” says Smith. “SaskPower is demonstrating their commitment to working with Northern residents through projects like this one. Their commitment really aligns with the overall mandate of our company, so it’s a natural fit. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish through this partnership, and I look forward to continuing with new projects in the future.”

Athabasca Basin Road Services began as a road maintenance company in 1999. Currently, the company maintains over 200km of seasonal roads from Points North to Stony Rapids/Black Lake, the overland/ice road from Stony Rapids to Fond du Lac, and a 100km ice road from Fond du Lac to Uranium City. The company has expanded its services, and has grown to become a specialist in working with local communities in Saskatchewan’s remote Northern areas to fulfill the needs of its clients. Known for its comprehensive training and safety program, Athabasca Basin Road Services coordinates activities, and provides operational management, for a variety of remote-area services.