NPL’s First $1M Job

NPL got its first million-dollar job in 1970 from Inter-City Gas. Inter-City was running a main line out of Canada, around Lake of the Woods and then back into Canada to bring gas to the cities of Roseau, Warroad, Baudette, International Falls and Fort Francis. NPL’s portion included 56 miles of 12″ pipe and 21 miles of 4″ pipe. In the photo above, founder Noel Coon (right) poses with his trenching foreman next to a 320 Cleveland trenching machine in NPL’s equipment yard as the company gears up for the job.




Included in NPL’s portion was an eight-mile stretch of swamp. The original plan was to install the pipe during the winter when the ground was frozen. Due to a lengthy delay waiting for presidential permit to cross the U.S.-Canadian border, however, NPL missed its window.

Innovation saved the day. NPL deployed lightweight backhoes with wide tracks called bantams to trench the eight-mile stretch. When the trench filled with water, the pipe was floated across. Then, rather than buy concrete weights to sink the pipe, NPL acquired a form to make its own weights. With the weights ready, common practice would have been to use swamp tractors to transport them to the bantams, which would then place them on the pipe. To speed this process up, NPL hired two Vietnam veteran helicopter pilots to fly the weights out and directly lower them onto the pipe.

When all was complete, the project was a huge success.