Bottom line up front: construction on the Keystone XL pipeline is moving forward in Phillips and Valley Counties in Northeastern Montana.

I spoke with Evelyn Pyburn from the Big Sky Business Journal on Monday. She's reporting that Montana could see the third highest job losses in the country due to COVID-19 closures. On top of that, 193 Billings-area businesses reported 65% losses already in numbers shared with the Big Sky Economic Development Association.

If businesses are struggling now, what will happen to state revenues, school funding, infrastructure, and more down the road?

Whether you like the Keystone XL pipeline or not- the State of Montana is going to desperately need that infusion of cash. Fortunately, the project appears to finally be moving forward in Montana.

The Glasgow Courier was first to report the news:

The construction of the pipeline is deemed critical infrastructure by the US Department of Homeland Security and therefore is allowed to continue as planned provided measures are implemented and followed for safety under current orders.

The Courier also noted that TC Energy is already implementing additional safety measures in order to protect workers and the community from the coronavirus.

Kelly Siefert with The BS Buzz in Glasgow has more:

While Glasgow is getting hit hard with economic uncertainty (along with the rest of Montana, The United States and globally) it would be a good time to have a hotel  or RV park here.

They’re busy — at least for the time being — as crews from all over the country have moved in to begin construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

We caught up with a worker from Michigan who is staying at Rundle Suites right now, and he is actually uncertain at this point as to whether they get rolling on Wednesday or not.

“With this coronavirus, things seem to change on a daily basis,” he said.

He is certainly hoping they get rolling because, if not, he made the trip for nothing and as a laborer he doesn’t get paid for his traveling expenses or time (adding that the welders do, however).

Siefert also shared this note from the Valley County Commissioners late Monday morning:

A note from the Commissioners

Dear Valley County residents,

The past few weeks have been challenging as we move through turbulent and uncharted “COVID-19 pandemic” waters together.

Our dedicated county employees are working to make sure that you get the essential services you need while we all try to function under the social distancing requirements that keep us safe.  The Commission is also partnered with stakeholders across Valley County, including the health authority, FMDH, the city of Glasgow, the outlying towns and communities, FMDH and first responders, the school districts, the businesses, the churches, and many others, to integrate, prioritize and communicate our efforts to get us all through this rough time together.

Our Valley County Health Authority, Dr. Anne Millard, has held two question and answer sessions on the COVID-19 disease, how FMDH is preparing and the current health order that is in place to protect Valley County citizens. These are available on FMDH, KLTZ and Courier webpages.

We are also working with numerous essential services providers and contractors (as defined by the Department of Homeland Security) to ensure that, while they are operating here, we are keeping our community members safe by helping everyone understand and comply with the social distancing restrictions currently in place.

One of these essential services contractors is TC Energy’s pipeline contractor. They are beginning construction of the pipeline at the U.S border in northern Phillips County. They have about 100 workers, lodging in both Phillips and Valley County, who will be here about six weeks to complete this phase of the line. Their onsite project manager and safety officer have been working with Dr. Anne Millard, and the Valley County Health Department, to meet all County Health Order restrictions while they complete the project. All contractor personnel must meet the same social distancing and quarantine requirements that Valley County citizens must meet.