Feature Story                                                                                                    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

 

Pathways to Pipelines

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project open house moves through Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photos

 

Trans Mountain staff discuss the pipeline route last Thursday. Below, Greg Toth fields questions and points to a map showing the pipeline.

 

nly a smattering of people showed up for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project Open House at the Coast Hotel last Thursday. The light crowd seemed to signify that most of the affected landowners were already up to speed, which was in contrast to the big turnout at the first open house last year.

  

According to Greg Toth, Senior Project Manager Trans Mountain expansion project, the National Energy Board (NEB) has generated a short-list of about 900 stakeholders that have successfully applied as intervenors.

 

In the next phase, the NEB will be selecting names on the list to appear at the board hearings TBA. It's expected the NEB will announce the hearing dates in Vancouver shortly. Throughout May and June, Trans Mountain agents will be negotiating with landowners.

 

Toth spoke with the Voice at the open house.

 

Has Trans Mountain been dealing with adversity in the community over the project?

What we've done with the landowners at this point, we've just applied with them for what's called "Survey Consent". It's really to get onto their land and do our environmental studies and engineering studies. Through that process, we receive survey consent. That's basically our green light to access those properties. We have had people who have refused.

 

Along the pipeline route in Alberta and BC, we're running about a 6 per cent refusal rate for our survey consent, so, we think we have a very high uptake on people who are willing to let us access their lands. Most of those landowners, 73 per cent of the system follows the existing pipeline. So, most of those landowners are familiar with our existing pipeline and our existing operations.

 

What do you do with the 6 per cent?

We continue to do our studies. Some of the studies are on a desktop basis, when you're doing all of your environmental assessments on one property, it's usually similar conditions on the adjacent property. So we really make some extrapolations on that.

 

What we do on our application is we submit an environmental protection plan. It's all the mitigation measures we would employ in the construction of the pipeline to mitigate the effects.

 

A lot of those things that are contemplated, those conditions, or potential impacts, would be similar on adjacent properties, so we believe that we'll have the information we'll need to make the determination really at this point of where the routing of the pipeline is likely to go.

 

Is Burnaby mayor Derrik Corigan correct in saying that your route has changed since you were there last year with your the open houses?

We received the submissions from Burnaby and we've gone out... and we're going to do a similar session to what we're doing up the valley here in Chilliwack and yesterday in Hope. In Burnaby, next week on Tuesday and Wednesday, really the information that we went out with at the time when we were doing our routing engagement, back in the June timeframe and we had those two alternate corridors on the map at the time when we were soliciting feedback from the people on those routes.

 

So the information that was in the application and what we presented to the public and stakeholders last year is the same information that we're going out this time as well.

 

The route I think he (Burnaby mayor) is referring to is; once we get across the Fraser River we follow a single route along United Blvd. Then, one of the route-offs is to jog up the Lougheed Hwy and go down Lougheed Hwy to the Lake City area. The other one is to continue in the corridor with the rail and Hwy 1 to the Brunette area and then come up that way.

 

Who determines what's best for the company and the public?

We receive feedback. We think in order to have the best project possible, we need that local knowledge. We need the input of a very many people to hear all the considerations. We have routing criteria — routing objectives that we're trying to have.

 

It has to be constructible. We want to minimize impact to the public and to landowners and when we go through that criteria we try to make the routing process as objective as possible, even though we add a degree of subjectivity to it. So though that process, we hope to land on route that satisfies those conditions.

 

 

Are there any changes to the route in Chilliwack?

The two areas of Chilliwack that was of interest. When we filed our application the route was on the north side of the Highway and through the Cheam wetlands.

 

We heard, and we received a lot of feedback on the high values that are placed on the wetlands and the sensitivity of the wetlands. So, we basically have come back out to the community and we have a corridor that will me on the south side of the highway and help us to avoid the Cheam wetlands.

 

The other one is, I'm not sure what the area is referred to, I've heard it as Vedder Crossing, where the existing pipeline goes. There's been urban growth around where the existing pipeline goes through with Watson Elementary, a subdivision on each side of it and we think a better route would be to follow the BC Hydro very large right-of-way, with multiple high voltage towers through it.

 

Instead of pipelining through that neighbourhood where we're in backyards interrupting and disrupting most people's lives is to follow the BC Hydro right-of-way and minimize that disruption and impact.

 

Does it go through a lot of farmland?

Our routing, the existing pipeline, for the most part, other than those deviations, from basically the Fraser Valley through to Langley, we follow the existing pipeline with a few minor deviations. So that pipeline goes through a lot of farmland. A lot of high value agricultural land.

 

We're doing workshops with the agricultural community and basically had some really good sessions and receiving their input on how we preserve the high values of the agricultural land. So in our application, so there's a lot of focus on preservation of top soil, segregation of those top soils, constructing in certain periods of the year and doing everything we can to mitigate the impacts on those agricultural lands.

 

 

When all is said and done, and you've got the information in from the residents and stakeholders, and you still have holdouts, what do you do?

Our plans here are through this additional engagement on the routing refinement/enhancement, we will file an application and a supplement to the application which includes the consultation and any kind of new routing information.

 

This year, we're starting out the land rights acquisition program, so we're going to be sending land agents out, so we have that definition where we know where the pipeline will be going, and we'll be approaching landowners and we'll basically be presenting them offers of compensation and damages. It will be a package that will address the values of the land and impact for disturbances associated with construction.

 

So, there's really going to be a lot of those efforts. So there's still a lot of engagement that has to take place between now and 2016 whenever we start to construct the pipeline.

 

When will that begin?

We're talking probably in May-June of this year that we'll start out. We have somewhere in the order of 2200 landowners along the pipeline, and so we have multiple and agents and we'll start program when we have some good definition of where the pipeline will be.

 

So you've got 2200 intervenors?

I don't think there's any correlation. Obviously some of the intervenors, and some of the people that have applied, will be landowners. We know that.

 

Now what happens with the intervenors?

An application to participate was issued. There were 2130 that applied, and I think 900 or so are intervenors. If you're going to apply, you can participate multiple ways. You can intervene and offer letters of comment.

 

Do you anticipate any problem getting through this with landowners?

I don't know. With the landowners, everybody has their unique perspectives and what's important to them on their lands. I think all we can do is approach it from a standpoint of fairness. We want to be fair and equitable to the landowners and treat them right, recognize that there is going to be impacts with the pipeline construction so we really want to be consistent and be fair in our approach with them.

 

If you've got 6 per cent who say they don't want this on their land and refuse right down to the bitter end no matter how much money is offered to them, what do you do then?

It's not 6 per cent that say they don't want the pipeline. All we ask for is the rights to go onto their land to do the environmental and engineering studies and all they've said is no to that.

 

Saying yes to that isn't consent to construct the pipeline. We're just trying get their permission to go onto the land. What we have is 6 per cent of the people who say we're not granting you that right to go onto our land and do your studies.

 

The National Energy Board (NEB) has very public processes for landowners. Landowners are and so in the event of dispute, there are dispute measures within the NEB.

 

How many landowners will be affected in Chilliwack?

I don't know the Chilliwack numbers off hand, but I think In the whole Lower Mainland there are something like 600 parcels affected.

 

So it's too early to say that you've got people who won't cooperate?

I think it's too early to say. I think we need to physically move forward with the processes and see where we end up. I think from the landowner’s perspective, they have a lot of rights that are embedded in the NEB process

 

© Copyright (c) 2009-2014 The Valley Voice