Retired Landowner Maintains Keen Interest in Pipelines

October 08, 2019

Landowner Raymond Bakken

He shares a name with the prolific oil formation that feeds the energy economy in southern Saskatchewan. He lives in Estevan, one of the major oilfield service centres for the region. And he’s a welder by trade, retiring recently after more than 50 years with SaskPower under his belt.

Now 74, Ray Bakken (pronounced ‘Bock-in’) has never worked in the oil patch, but the industry has always been close by – first as a child growing up in the 1950s on a farm that sits along the Enbridge Mainline pipeline in the picturesque Iskwao Creek Valley about 130 km northwest of Regina.

Ray was too young to remember when Line 1 went through in 1949-50. And he wasn’t really aware of the presence of pipelines on the farm until 1976, when he first purchased land from his uncle and became an Interprovincial Pipe Line (later Enbridge) landowner.

He’s been keenly interested in pipelining ever since and keeps a scrapbook of press clippings and old photos, including his own and several his uncle snapped during Line 1 construction (see Photo Gallery).

“He and my aunt would drive up in this old 1930s sedan, see the work they were doing out there and take some pictures,” Ray says. “I like to do that myself and over the years I’ve collected them all in a book with some newspaper articles and other things.”

Over the years, he’s witnessed preventative maintenance digs and had a sneak peek at the most recent project on the Mainline, Line 3 pipeline replacement construction (L3RP). During the latter, he even had the privilege of witnessing an Indigenous prayer ceremony at a ‘buffalo stone’ identified by Indigenous monitors in the valley during construction.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Enbridge’s Mainline system, Canada’s largest crude oil transportation network, which includes Line 1. Built in the wake of the Leduc oil discovery that signaled the birth of the modern Canadian oil industry, the Enbridge Mainline remains a vital component in ensuring safe and secure energy supply for North American energy consumers, transporting up to 2.85 million barrels per day of light and heavy crude oil from Edmonton, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

Those seven decades hold a lot of good family and pipeline memories for Ray.

Still, Ray says what he remembers and appreciates most of all is the treatment he’s received from Enbridge over the years.

“Honest to god, I’ve never been treated so well in all my life,” he says.

Although he no longer farms the land, having rented it out for the past few years, Ray continues to follow the trials and tribulations of the industry closely, adding to his scrapbook and enjoying conversations with fellow retirees on ‘coffee row.’

“We’re just a bunch of guys telling stories about the old days,” Ray says. “We’re the last generation to tell stories about working with horses, hauling stooks and that sort of thing. When we’re gone there’ll be nobody around who can understand what that life was like.”