When Joe Young joined land survey firm J.D. Barnes as a summer student in 1987, he probably did not expect that he would one day run the company.
The employee-owned business has come a long way since being founded by entrepreneurial surveyor John Duncan Barnes in 1960. It now employs around 330 permanent staff in 11 offices across Ontario and its professional surveyors, engineers, programmers and technicians have turned J.D. Barnes into one of Canada’s top providers of land information services.
TransCanada has relied on J.D. Barnes’ expertise for the past 40 years on a range of projects, from integrity and maintenance works on the Canadian Mainline and Trans Québec & Maritime (TQM) Pipeline natural gas transmission systems, to the preliminary surveys needed for route selection and engineering design for the Energy East Pipeline Project.
“I am biased to land surveyors so I’d say we provide a very important service up front,” says Young, who became CEO in 2011. “We see everything, the hills, the ditches, the creeks. We collect all the geographic and land ownership data a project team needs to come up with the best design and the most efficient way to build their infrastructure.”
Over the past two years, J.D. Barnes has used its fleet of aircraft for aerial mapping to create a seamless image of potential routes for the pipeline that will stretch 4,500 kilometres from Alberta to New Brunswick. The Energy East project team then used the data to come up with an ideal route that has as little impact as possible on residents and the environment.
J.D. Barnes hired and trained around 50 staff to conduct the extensive preliminary surveys needed to develop the Energy East Pipeline project, and prepare critical parts of TransCanada’s regulatory filing at the end of 2014. For instance, J.D. Barnes put together map books that are available for public consultation in over 30 libraries and information centres across the country.
Montreal survey partner Arsenault Lemay also recruited a number of land survey specialists to supplement their core team of experts to collect data and survey property boundaries across Quebec, says Young at the firm’s headquarters in Markham, outside Toronto, where dozens of computer technicians and programmers work on advanced software to stitch together the millions of data points collected on the ground to create models of routes.
“Our field crews along with Arsenault Lemay’s field crews and other project team members have been staying all along the pipeline route in hotels, eating in diners, buying survey supplies and gasoline,” Young notes. “This project is already, in my opinion, generating a significant positive economic impact for Canadians all along the route.”
Pipelines now represent about a third of J.D. Barnes’ annual revenue, with condo development in and around the Greater Toronto Area, and large infrastructure projects such as highways representing two other key drivers of activity for the company.
Young says a lot of Canadians are not aware of the extensive work that goes into developing a pipeline and the focus that companies such as TransCanada have on building this much-needed infrastructure safely.
“I think people who oppose pipelines should learn more about the efforts and investments that TransCanada, and companies like them, put into pipeline integrity, maintenance and replacement programs,” he says. “Based on our 40-plus years of experience with them, we have seen first-hand the significant amount of time, money and expertise they invest to develop and maintain their infrastructure”
“Some of the field work we do for them is also used by their environmental specialists to try and minimize the impact of a project to environmentally-sensitive areas such as wetlands. We are quite pleased that our surveys help them do that.”
“The Energy East project team used land survey data to come up with an ideal route that has as little impact as possible on residents and the environment.”