Feature Story                                                                        Sunday, July 23, 2017

 

Blue Murder

The City of Chilliwack still spinning in circles on Kinder Morgan pipeline route as it barrels closer

Voice staff/Submitted images

 

A proposed route change as presented by Waterwealtlh.

 

 

ears after an announcement by Kinder Morgan of their planned pipeline route through Chilliwack, incredibly, City still hasn't decided what to do and they're now faced to make a last minute decision as the pipeline prepares to barrel through Chilliwack. 

 

Local water conservation group Waterweath Project, led by campaign director Ian Stephen, who have been vocal opponents of the of the planned Kinder Morgan pipeline route through Chilliwack from the onset, told The Voice Friday that they're making headway in coming up with alternative routes that they would to present to Chilliwack's mayor and council for consideration before a decision is ratified.

 

Aside from disdain of many for pipelines in general, the primary concern of local opponents has been keeping the pipeline well away from Chilliwack's source of drinking water. It's unclear at this point what City staff will recommend to council.

 

A few months ago, David Blaine, Director of Planning and Engineering for the City of Chilliwack downplayed the contentious route by telling council the pipe would be double-walled over the aquifer.

 

According to Stephen, instead of a double-walled pipe as Blaine was talking about, the company would install thicker pipe over the aquifer.

 

"TMEP will commit to install heavy wall pipe (14.7 mm wall thickness versus 11.8mm) for the entire portion between Silverthorne Road to Watson Road. TMEP will also add a valve in the nearest logical proximity with power and communications, at or before the eastern start of Silverthorne Road," says Stephen. "Thicker pipe is better than not, but it's only the part of the aquifer
nearest the city wells. The extra valve does nothing in the event of a leak below their threshold of detection. And neither thicker pipe nor extra valve do anything to improve the safety of the aging pipe that's there now."

 

Apparently, Mayor Sharon Gaetz, who is just past mid-term, is still considering staff's recommendation. However council's decision could leave a tenuous legacy for decades should a problem with the pipeline arise.

 

Many feel that if pushback to the pipeline route were to fail, this would spell the end of the mayor and council's terms in office. Two years ago, every other municipality in the Fraser Valley let go of upper level-staff with the exception of Chilliwack who have the highest paid staff in the province.

 

"I'll be glad to see City Hall gutted if the pipeline route isn't changed," said one concerned resident who preferred to remain anonymous. "It seems money is their main concern, not the people of Chilliwack and the environment and they should be run out of office. Back in the days of the Romans, it they didn't like a politician, they'd put them in a bag with a lion and tie it up."

 

Of course this isn't they way they do it these days, people now show their disdain for politicians in saner ways such as in the form of a ballot.

 

Recently, Kinder Morgan tested their response time and ability to deal with a spill in Hope, BC. but it's unclear what the results of those tests concluded.

 

Below, Stephen provides three alternative routes and discusses issues they've been working on.

 

•  the route Kinder Morgan proposed through the NEB hearing which across Chilliwack was the old Trans Mountain right-of-way but with a small change to follow the BC Hydro right-of-way from about Watson Elementary School for about 1.8 km west;
•  the old Trans Mountain right-of-way without the BC Hydro piece which is the route Kinder Morgan have applied to the NEB for a route change to because they couldn't work out technical difficulties with BC Hydro, and;
•  the Highway 1 route WaterWealth proposed and which recently the City seems to be getting on board with a little bit.

Along with those three routes are three regulatory processes;

•   the main NEB detailed route approval process which has finished its written statement stage and is awaiting the NEB's decision on public hearing participation and schedule;
•  the Section 21 application process for Kinder Morgan's route change out of the BC Hydro right-of-way which has had a comment period and awaits approval (or not) from the NEB, approval from the Governor in Council (federal cabinet), and a detailed route process of its own, and;

•  the City and Kinder Morgan engaging in an NEB facilitated Appropriate Dispute Resolution process over route issues.

The Route of the Problem
To protect the source of our drinking water, many in Chilliwack have been working to have the Trans Mountain pipelines moved to a new route away from City wells and off of the aquifer. Meanwhile, pipeline owner Kinder Morgan has also been seeking route changes. They have applied to the NEB for seven route changes including one in Chilliwack that would move the new pipeline closer to City wells. In Chilliwack the three routes in play are as follows.


The BC Hydro right-of-way
On this map the Vedder River Fan Aquifer that is the source of Chilliwack's drinking water is shaded blue. (Also known as the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer.) The pipeline route is shown in red. The BC Hydro right-of-way option is shown in purple, going from Watson Elementary School west about 1.8 km and south to near the end of Deerfield Crescent. This was the route Kinder Morgan planned to use but they say they could not resolve technical difficulties with BC Hydro. Running a steel pipe parallel to 230 kV and 500 kV powerlines has its challenges.

The Chilliwack Realignment
This is the change Kinder Morgan has applied for. It returns to the 1953 route instead of using the BC Hydro right-of-way. It moves the pipeline closer to 4 City wells and puts it through Watson Elementary School and 75 residential properties that the BC Hydro option would have avoided. The 64 year old pipeline that is there now is on this route. The twinning project does not include upgrading that pipe despite its history of 82 leaks, 3 of which spilled over a million litres. One spill into groundwater in 1992, fortunately not a source of drinking water, is still being cleaned up now, 25 years later.

The Trans Canada Highway route
This is the route WaterWealth proposed during the Ministerial Panel hearings. The pipeline would follow Highway 1 from where it already crosses the highway near Upper Prairie Road, to where it returns to the highway at Kinder Morgan’s pump station at McDermott Road in Abbotsford. The company could put two pipes in this route, decommission the old pipe where it crosses the aquifer, and completely eliminate any risk of oil spill into Chilliwack's water supply. This is also the only route option that would protect Yarrow Waterworks wells. If they are going to dig a new trench to put another pipeline across Chilliwack this is the only responsible place to put it.

The deadline for comments on Kinder Morgan’s Chilliwack Realignment application was July 17. The City sent a letter objecting to this route change because it would put the new pipeline, like the old pipeline, right across parts of the aquifer that four city wells draw water from (called capture zones). The City’s letter said “our goal is to have the new pipeline route as far from the Aquifer as possible and both the BC Hydro and TCH [Trans Canada Highway] routes satisfy that goal.”

However, the fact is that the BC Hydro route would not even move the pipeline out of the City’s Protected Groundwater Zone, much less off of the aquifer. It would probably move the new pipeline out of capture zones of two city wells, but would leave it within capture zones of two others (capture zone mapping under way now will provide the proof), and would still leave the old pipeline across all four wells’ capture zones. The BC Hydro route would also do nothing to protect Yarrow Waterworks wells, wells that Kinder Morgan seem to think are at greater risk from their pipeline than the City wells. Yarrow’s wells were included in Kinder Morgan’s June 16th list of drinking water sources at risk while the City wells, unbelievably, were not.

Our City is currently in a dispute resolution process with Kinder Morgan over route issues. It’s a David and Goliath story with pipeline jurisdiction outside of local government hands and our small city up against the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, a company that was able to raise $1.75-billion in a matter of days with an IPO that was one of the largest ever in Canada.

However what our City has backing it up is us. All of the people who love the place we live and who will come together in times of crisis, as was demonstrated when our community responded to the Fort McMurray fires, and is being demonstrated now as our community responds in support of communities hit by this years’ wild fires.

In the dispute resolution process the City is engaged in now, and the NEB detailed route public hearings to come, we need to let the City know that we are with them. Together we can take a stand for the protection of all of our drinking water wells, including those of Yarrow Waterworks, by insisting on the one route that would guarantee no pipeline spill ever into the drinking water we need. The route alongside Highway 1.

You can write to the Mayor and Council to express your support for the amended route here.

 

For more information or to donate, please visit www.waterwealthproject.com

 

 


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