Monday, June 19, 2017
Wish You Well
NEB comments open to June 30 followed by Public Hearings
Ian Stephen, WaterWealth Project
Water is a chief concern for Chilliwack residents. Comments are open until June 30 followed by a public hearing.
ocuments filed Friday, June 16 by Kinder Morgan confirm that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) puts many drinking water sources at risk. However the company’s appreciation of the risk their project imposes on the water supply of the City of Chilliwack is once again being called into question.
The expansion project was recommended for approval by the National Energy Board last year with 157 mandatory conditions, many of those pre-construction conditions. Friday’s filing addressed Condition 93 which requires that at least two months before commencing construction the company provide details of all physically verified water wells within 150 metres of the proposed pipeline route.
Also included with Friday’s filing was information required to meet a commitment Kinder Morgan made to the Province of BC, an inventory of drinking water sources that could be impacted by a spill based on what the company considers credible spill scenarios.
Over 3400 water sources were listed, including Yarrow Waterworks wells beside the Vedder River downstream of the pipeline. Incredibly, production wells that supply City of Chilliwack drinking water were absent from the lists.
On May 4, Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz wrote to Kinder Morgan Canada Vice President David Safari to say she was “extremely dismayed at the inaccuracy” of Safari’s remark in an earlier letter regarding routing through Chilliwack.
In that letter Safari had written "The Sardis Vedder aquifer and the City of Chilliwack municipal water supply well intake/drawdown region were not raised as a concern along these alignment scenarios by the city and therefore were not part of the focused scope of the study."
Anglers on the Vedder River in Chilliwack. Below, Ian Stephen, WaterWealth director, speaks at a rally circa 2014.
The City has long raised concerns centred around protection of the aquifer and the proximity of the pipeline route to City wells. In an August 2015 letter of comment to the National Energy Board the City wrote that information provided by Kinder Morgan did not “adequately explain how Trans Mountain will mitigate the risks to the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer”.
In a January 2017 letter, the City was still “seeking commitments that adequate measures will be taken to protect the City’s municipal water supply”. Recently the City raised objections when it became known that the company planned to drill the pipeline 20 metres deep into the aquifer under some residential neighbourhoods.
Earlier this mont, Kinder Morgan President Ian Anderson responded to the Mayor with assurances that the company takes the City’s concerns “seriously”, and that the company seeks to continue the “valuable relationship” that they have enjoyed with the City. Of the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, Anderson wrote “we understand the importance of this vital resource to your community.” City wells being absent from the company’s Friday filing with the NEB leave the impression Anderson’s assurances don’t hold water.
“I can only describe it as tragically comical.” said a clearly exasperated Ian Stephen, Program Director at the Chilliwack-based WaterWealth Project. "WaterWealth has been filling the role of what the NEB Modernization Panel’s recommendation report called the “Public Intervener”, informing residents of regulatory processes for the proposed pipeline and supporting public participation.
Uberdrop pipeline protest in 2014 at Five Corners in Chilliwack.
“We’ve been involved from the start as an intervener in the NEB hearing, presenting to the Ministerial Panel, writing to federal and provincial decision makers, and talking with Kinder Morgan staff at public meetings. Chilliwack residents have expressed their opinions and concerns about the project very strongly," says Stephen. "In the route approval process that is under way now, nearly half of all statements received by the NEB to date are from Chilliwack. Now, at this late stage, Chilliwack residents learn that Kinder Morgan apparently don’t know where our city drinking water wells are?”
The fact that WaterWealth along with the Township of Langley brought process errors by the company to the NEB’s attention, resulting in deadlines for statements of opposition to the pipeline route being extended by nearly 8 weeks, might be expected to have put Chilliwack on the company’s radar.
With the NEB taking statements from Chilliwack residents until June 30, and public hearings to follow, Kinder Morgan may yet become acquainted with just how close to City wells their proposed pipeline route is. They will certainly learn how determined Chilliwack residents are to protect the drinking water that has long been a source of community pride.
Condition 93 filing
Chilliwack 2015 letter of comment
2017 communications between Trans Mountain and City of Chilliwack, Including Ian Anderson letter to Mayor Gaetz
NEB Modernization Expert Panel Report