City of Chilliwack chose to be a commenter rather than an intervenor in
the National Energy Board hearing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline
Expansion Project. My understanding was that the choice was based on the
understanding that the Fraser Valley Regional District as an intervener
could represent Chilliwack's interests in the process, and duplication
of costs and work would be avoided.
The City's letter of comment identifies five areas of priority concern.
First among them was "Protection of the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer (also
known as the Vedder River Fan Aquifer) during construction and operation
of the TMEP"
The City also state in their letter that "Yarrow Waterworks District's
wells are situated immediately adjacent to the Vedder River, and are
therefore influenced by the water quality in the Vedder River downstream
of the Trans Mountain crossing of the Vedder River". As you may be
aware, that river crossing is also near the Vedder Mountain Fault,
adding seismic risk to this critical section of the pipeline route.
Further, the City state that "the pipeline route crosses land where the
Sardis-Vedder Aquifer's vulnerability is classified as high and
Despite all of that, the City speak only of mitigating risk through such
things as monitoring groundwater and use of heavier pipe across the
aquifer, missing the simplest and surest way of protecting Chilliwack
and Yarrow drinking water supplies: change the route to remove the
pipeline from over the aquifer.
We know from documents acquired through an Access to Information request
by Mr David Ellis, and from direct observation, that hundreds of
"features" that met Kinder Morgan's dig criteria were identified on the
old pipeline in the Darfield to Hargreaves section and down the
Coquihalla Canyon to as far west as almost Bridal Falls. Excavations for
inspection and repair on the pipeline have been ongoing since at least
June 2013 when the two spills were found near the Coquihalla Summit.
Similar in-line testing was to have been completed on the section that
crosses Chilliwack by the end of 2014. I regret that I have not
undertaken an Access to Information request to try to acquire those test
results. To date, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no
excavations between approximately 5km east of Bridal Falls and Sumas
Mountain--an area including the section of the pipeline that lies over
Chilliwack's water supply. It is hard to imagine that the existing
pipeline is any healthier in the Chilliwack section than it was in the
sections where so many inspections and repairs were undertaken over the
past couple of years. I can only surmise that Kinder Morgan are waiting
for approval on their pipeline expansion to do those repairs on the old
line across Chilliwack as installation of the new line progresses.
Leaving aside whether new tar sands pipelines should be built at all in
this day and age, if the Trans Mountain Expansion Project proceeds they
have to dig a new trench for the new pipe. Risk to Chilliwack's water
supply could be eliminated by having Trans Mountain dig that new trench
further north, off of the aquifer, away from City of Chilliwack and
Yarrow Waterworks wells, and for a relatively small additional cost
decommission the 60+ year old pipeline that lies across the aquifer now
and run it along the new route also, rejoining the original route at
points east and west of Chilliwack's water supply. Identification of the
new route is of course Trans Mountain's responsibility, but considering
that the pipeline crosses and in places runs under Highway One both east
and west of Chilliwack, a new route following Highway One seems like an
There is still time to direct FVRD staff to include in the FVRD
Argument-in-Chief that the NEB make one of the conditions for Trans
Mountain Expansion Project approval be that this route change be made
for both new and old pipelines to protect Chilliwack and Yarrow drinking
water, as well as the economic, ecological, and recreational value of
the Vedder River. We will never have a better opportunity to remove this
threat from the water supplies and river.
I look forward to your reply, and would be happy to discuss this further
and provide what documentation I have, e.g. the Kinder Morgan report
documenting 119 features meeting their dig criteria in the Hargreaves to
The following letter was sent today (Jan 5) to the Chilliwack Mayor
and Councillors regarding the risks posed to Chilliwack and Yarrow water
supplies by the Trans Mountain pipeline and the opportunity for the
proposed pipeline expansion project to remove that risk if that project
is approved and proceeds.
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