Statement of Opposition to the Detailed Route of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project

-- Ian Stephen, WaterWealth Program Director, Chilliwack resident

Please bear in mind that the following concerns regarding the proposed route of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project could all be alleviated by a route change to run the pipeline alongside the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) as it crosses Chilliwack. The unique risks posed by the company’s proposed route across Chilliwack are entirely unnecessary and at the discretion of the National Energy Board. Note also that the suggestion of a route along Highway 1, while not precluding placement of the pipeline within the highway right-of-way, does not specifically intend that the pipeline be in the highway right-of-way but also intends consideration of a route, or portions of route, parallel to but outside the highway right-of-way as necessary to satisfy future plans for the highway.

Aquifer #8, known as the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer or Vedder Fan Aquifer, is situated from approximately RK 1094 to approximately RK 1107.5 (Route kilometres taken from the City of Chilliwack Letter of Comment to the NEB, dated August 18, 2015). This aquifer is the City of Chilliwack’s sole source of potable water for approximately 76,000 residents and businesses, including my own home where I live with my wife, adult son, and dog Pijiu (who is perhaps not as picky about the source of her drinking water as the rest of us).

The CBC reported Jan 29, 2017 that “Figures compiled by the National Energy Board show that in the past three years, incorrect operation . . . has caused an average of 20 leaks per year. That's up from an average of four annually in the previous six years.”
(http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/human-error-pipeline-spill-neb-1.3957370 accessed 3 May 2017)

The National Energy Board states on its web page titled “Pipeline Performance Measures”:

“[T]he Board has noticed an increased trend in the number and severity of incidents being reported by NEB-regulated companies in recent years. The Board is of the view that a reduction in numbers and severity of pipeline incidents depends on actions taken by industry.”
(https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/sftnvrnmnt/sft/pplnprfrmncmsr/index-eng.html accessed 3 May 2017)

Actions taken by Trans Mountain do not assure me of the safety of my home’s source of tap water. The company has stated in fliers and advertisements that they are aware of the community’s concerns about the aquifer. Yet at the March 8, 2017 information session in Chilliwack no maps were available that showed the aquifer, city wells, Yarrow wells, or the Vedder Mountain Fault.

Recently, after the NEB declined a request from Trans Mountain to allow Operations and Maintenance Notices for seven integrity digs to be confidential, the company filed two notices, one for a single dig and the other for six digs, that did not identify the locations of the digs. The NEB’s “Appendix A Operations and Maintenance Activities on Pipelines Regulated Under the National Energy Board Act: Requirements and Guidance Notes January 2013 Updated to - July 2015 O&M Guidelines” (https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/bts/ctrg/gnnb/prtnmntnncctvt/2015-07-17nbl-eng.html, accessed 5 May 2017) lists among information companies are required to submit when notifying the Board, “the location of the activity (e.g., legal land description, kilometre post).” That Trans Mountain is aware of this requirement is evidenced by the many Operations and Maintenance notices previously filed by the company that include kilometre post and latitude/longitude details for integrity digs. The blatant disregard for this requirement on the two recent Operations and Maintenance notices further undermines confidence in the company’s practices.

Other actions of the company that undermine confidence in the company’s practices include:

  • Their “Chilliwack Project Update” flier distributed shortly before the detailed route process got underway telling residents that “Other route locations are no longer under consideration.”, leaving many with the impression that the route is set when in fact it has not been approved by the Board.
  • Their Chilliwack BC Hydro Reroute Application notice (A82269-2 s.21 Chilliwack BC Hydro Reroute Application - A5J8D6.pdf) giving a long list of engagement activities dated August 22, 2012 to March 15, 2016 and stating “No concerns were raised about the proposed Reroute in these engagement activities” when the same document tells us that “Landowner engagement specific to the Reroute commenced in January 2017”, after the engagement activities in which “[n]o concerns were raised.”
  • Despite claiming to recognize the vulnerability and criticality of the Sardis Vedder Aquifer, when first informing the City and residents of the BC Hydro right-of-way being abandoned as a route option and a return to the TMPL right-of-way in segment 6.3 Trans Mountain intended to use Horizontal Directional Drilling 20 metres deep into the aquifer, a plan that was only altered when the City objected to this obvious threat to the water supply.
  • An advertorial by Lexa Hobenshield, Trans Mountain Stakeholder Engagement, in the Chilliwack Progress March 6, 2017 titled “Protecting the Aquifer is Paramount” told us “we share the value you place on this important community water source” and that “As part of our Groundwater Management Plan, potential impacts have been evaluated and mitigation strategies have been established for all phases of the Project.” Yet the Groundwater Management Plan dated September 2016 found on Trans Mountain’s website speaks only of pre-construction and construction, not operation of the pipeline. Perhaps even more concerning, the Appendix C table of Potential Groundwater Related Issues lists no potential groundwater concerns between KP 1026.2, the last Coquihalla River crossing, and KP 1109.2, the Sumas River crossing. Apparently the company sees no potential groundwater related issues where my family and my community draw our drinking water from in Chilliwack and Yarrow.
    (https://www.transmountain.com/uploads/pages/1474486121-Groundwater-Management-Plan.pdf, accessed 5 May 2017)

The aforementioned advertorial, and a very similar March 6, 2017 blog by Trans Mountain’s Lexa Hobenshield titled “Protecting the Aquifer is Paramount” says that Trans Mountain will “continue to allocate extensive resources to our pipeline integrity program.”

In 2012 the National Energy Board ordered Trans Mountain to complete inline inspections on the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline. Those inspections were to be completed by 2014. It is public record that reanalysis of inline inspection data following the two June 2013 Trans Mountain pipeline spills, that inline inspections failed to detect, found 119 locations that met the company’s dig criteria on the 274 km Hargreaves to Darfield segment of the pipeline. Many excavations were also observed by myself and others in the Coquihalla Canyon following those two 2013 spills. Yet despite the poor condition of the pipeline in those areas the "extensive resources" of Trans Mountain’s pipeline integrity program were not enough to complete the inspections on schedule. They were delayed by approximately a year and the final report not filed with the NEB until late in 2015 according to information provided by the company in response to an information request by the WaterWealth Project.

To help assure myself and fellow Chilliwack residents of the company’s claims regarding the robustness of their safety and maintenance practices for the twinning project, I asked the company to bring a copy of the 2015 final report on inline inspections to the public information session they held in Chilliwack March 8, 2017. The report was not made available so I asked staff at the meeting to follow up with a copy. I have not heard from them since on that matter. I also asked the NEB for a copy of the report. Given that documents filed with the NEB are normally public this did not seem like an unreasonable request. After a delay of 7 weeks I was told I would have to do a Access to Information Request for the report. I did so, and at the end of the statutory 30 days to respond I received a letter from the NEB imposing a 120 day delay on responding to the request. That delay means that no response will be received before the deadline for statements of opposition to the detailed route of the expansion project.

Insofar as extrapolating from experience with safety and maintenance practices on the existing Trans Mountain pipeline in order to assess the future safety of the water source that my family depend on daily, information that I have had access to only increases my sense of concern. What would alleviate my concerns and those of many in Chilliwack would be to reject the proposed route across our community and to move the pipeline away from the aquifer and other areas of high value to the community.

A technical memo from Hatch Mott MacDonald on behalf of Kinder Morgan to the City of Chilliwack, dated May 26, 2015 said that a graph of trends in groundwater levels recorded at a provincial groundwater observation well in the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer “suggests that between, approximately, late spring and autumn, the groundwater depth exceeds 2.5 metres below ground surface.” It went on to say that Trans Mountain wish to construct the new pipeline during the summer dry season with a standard trench depth of less than 2.5 metres below ground surface and that this would help mitigate any impacts to the City’s water supply source during construction. (A82269-17 Appendix C Part 1 - 13 - A5J8F1)

Similar to Lexa Hobenshield’s blog mentioned earlier, a draft technical memo prepared by Waterline Resources Inc for Kinder Morgan Canada, dated February 28, 2017 stated that “Trans Mountain will continue to allocate extensive resources to its pipeline integrity program, which is used to identify and repair anomalies in the pipe before leaks occur.” (A82269-15 Appendix C Part 1 - 11 - A5J8E9 p.58)

The two 2013 leaks demonstrate that the pipeline integrity program cannot be relied on to repair anomalies before leaks occur. Furthermore, where anomalies are detected and repairs must be made to prevent leaks the company may not have the option of waiting for optimal times such as dry summer months when the groundwater depth exceeds 2.5 metres below ground surface. Over the life of the pipeline excavations into the water table may be necessary and on the proposed route of the expansion project these digs may take place on the grounds of an elementary school, in dense residential neighbourhoods, within capture zones of city wells, or in salmon spawning beds. And were a spill to occur, as the City’s letter of comment in the hearing OH-001-2014 said, “[o]nce contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again.”

None of this risk to the drinking water used by my family and the many thousands of other residents and businesses of the City of Chilliwack is necessary. The pipeline route can be changed to avoid these risks.

A pamphlet distributed by the company in Chilliwack titled “Protecting the Chilliwack Aquifer” included an illustration of a horizontal drilling rig pulling a pipeline under a watercourse. The Vedder River being the only watercourse in the area where drilling is planned (though Direct-pipe rather than Horizontal Directional Drilling), it can be assumed that this illustration was intended to portray the crossing of Peach Creek, the Vedder River and the portion of Browne Creek Wetlands that the company do not intend to cross by trenching.

The illustration failed to show several important considerations of that crossing:

  • The illustration showed the drilling going through soil below the waterway. It failed to show that the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer extends under the Vedder River and that this drilling would be in the aquifer.
  • It failed to show that the crossing is planned to be upstream of Yarrow Waterworks wells, both as the river and as the groundwater flow.
  • It failed to show that the crossing is planned to be upstream of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve.
  • It failed to show that the crossing is in a zone of very high liquefaction potential, and;
  • it failed to show that the crossing is on or near the Vedder Mountain Fault.

Like many Chilliwack residents, my enjoyment of my home is intimately connected to the natural environment in and around the community. I look out the windows of my home and see mountains and the ever-changing play of clouds, precipitation, and sunlight on the mountains. My family walk, jog and cycle on the dikes and trails along the Vedder River and adjacent natural areas, enjoying the sights of salmon, eagles and other wildlife and birds. We swim in the river. We eat produce from farms near the river, produce that may have been grown using water drawn from those Yarrow wells or under the two surface water licences for irrigation purposes that exist on the Vedder River. We frequent the Heron Reserve a few times a year and recommend it to visitors. The Vedder is a busy recreational fishing river, activity which contributes to the local economy that we all benefit from. The health of that river and the natural spaces on either side of it are very important to my family, as they are to many Chilliwack residents and visitors. Such activities are not just a matter of enjoyment, but contribute to the health and wellbeing of residents. With regard to the Yarrow Waterworks wells, while I don’t drink from that water supply daily as I do from the City of Chilliwack system, I do make use of it when I visit friends or restaurants in Yarrow, and I do care for the well-being of my friends and neighbours who do rely on that water system daily.

In that area the risks are heightened by the presence of the Vedder Mountain Fault. During the hearing OH-001-2014, Trans Mountain argued that this fault was not active. However the WaterWealth Project submitted evidence that “A number of earthquakes have occurred along the traces of the Sumas and Vedder Mt. faults since 1964, indicating that the faults are presently active.” (http://www.efsec.wa.gov/Sumas2/adj2001/whatcomcoprefiled/dje-2.pdf). Natural Resources Canada also flagged the Vedder Mountain Fault as one of four faults of particular concern on the route. NEB Condition 69 on the Trans Mountain project requires Trans Mountain to file the results of fault-mapping studies that were ongoing during or undertaken after the OH-001-2014 proceeding, for use in the detailed design of the Project including conclusions regarding possible seismic activity during the Holocene epoch for Sumas Fault and Vedder Mountain Fault (among others) and the potential for compounding risks due to the proximity of the Vedder Mountain and Sumas Faults. That the Vedder Mountain Fault is not far from City of Chilliwack wells and is very close to the Vedder River crossing and Yarrow Waterworks wells raises questions beyond the security of the water supply myself and other residents depend on, to how local emergency services--fire department and hospital in particular--would function in the event of a significant earthquake affecting the area if as a result of the earthquake the pipeline failed over the water supply those emergency services would most urgently need just at that time. There is no way to turn off a potentially contaminated drinking water system while still supplying emergency services. It is regrettable that residents’ opportunity to file statements on the detailed route of the project will be passed before Condition 69 filings are available to help assess the risks in that area of the project.

But again, these are risks that could be simply avoided by changing the route.

Of course if the company could fairly claim that no practicable alternative route existed then it might also fairly argue that reducing risks by use of heavier pipe and an extra valve was reasonable. However a workable alternative route exists alongside Highway 1. The proposed route currently crosses the Trans Canada Highway from north to south near Upper Prairie Road in Chilliwack, west of the Annis Road interchange. The route could be changed to not cross the highway at that point and instead to follow the highway on the north side. It would probably make sense to cross the highway east of the Evans Road interchange to avoid the commercial area west of that interchange and to instead follow the highway on the south side from the Evans Road interchange to the Kinder Morgan pump station at 3434 McDermott Rd, Abbotsford.

The idea of a route along Highway 1 has been raised with the company, and in a letter to the City of Chilliwack they listed objections to such a route (A82269-17 Appendix C Part 1 - 13 - A5J8F1 Letter from Lexa Hobenshield, Trans Mountain, to Rod Sanderson, City of Chilliwack). I would like to address those objections one by one.

Why can’t you route along Highway 1?

“It was difficult to find an acceptable corridor from the existing TMPL to Highway 1 without significant landowner disruption”

TMPL is already at Highway 1 where it crosses the highway near Upper Prairie Road. By our count, between the highway crossing at Upper Prairie Road and the pump station on McDermott there are 245 property owners directly impacted by the route. Trans Mountain’s proposed reroute away from the BC Hydro right-of-way alone will directly affect 75 landowners according to the section 21 application filed by the company and the PPBoR filed for that segment 6.3. A route along the highway, depending exactly where it went, might directly impact approximately 75 landowners in total. A route change to follow the highway results in significantly less landowner disruption.

“Once on a Highway 1 corridor, there are a number of pinch points that restrict this option through Chilliwack”

There are a greater number of pinch points on the proposed route. For example, look again at the segment 6.3 and the houses Trans Mountain was contemplating drilling 20 metres deep into the aquifer to go under.

“TMEP would then need to get back to TMPL at some point”

They could conveniently leave the proposed route north of Highway 1 by Upper Prairie Road and reconnect to TMPL at the McDermott Road pump station.

“TMEP has an approved routing corridor through Chilliwack & is not investigating alternative routing options”

And there’s the rub. ‘We have a route and we’re sticking to it.’ As stated in Trans Mountain’s Expansion Project Application Volume 4A Project Design & Execution - Engineering, section 2.8.2.2 “The primary criterion established for the selection of the TMEP Line 2 pipeline corridor was to locate it abutting the existing TMPL easement.”

For much of the project that probably makes sense. It does not make sense in Chilliwack.

In a letter to the City of Chilliwack dated February 15, 2017 Trans Mountain reiterated their route selection principle of “following the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMPL) right-of-way where practical”. The letter addressed the consideration of a route along Highway 1 by saying that “routing along Highway 1 would be impractical as it would potentially restrict MOTI’s future ability to expand the highway.” Given that on the section of highway 1 from Upper Prairie Road to McDermott Road there are farms and golf courses on at least one side with in the order of 500 to 750 metres or more between the highway and the next adjacent road one has to wonder how wide Trans Mountain expect MOTI to expand the highway to!

Specifically the Trans Mountain letter makes mention of:

"Overpass at Gibson Road" where to the north you have about 750 m agricultural land to Chilliwack Central Rd, to the south about 860 m to Prairie Central Rd.

"Overpass at Prest Road" where distances to roads to the north and south are similar to at Gibson Rd.

"Underpass at Young Road" where there is about 400 metres between the highway and the fence along the south side of the airport at Young Road.

"Railway overpass at Vedder Road". Are they saying the pipeline can cross the Vedder River near a fault line, with salmon spawning grounds and dikes either side and wells downstream but it cannot drill its way under a railway?

"Vedder Road overpass" where there is agricultural land to about 650 metres north of the Highway.

“Evans Road overpass” where again there is large expanses of agricultural land in the north-east quadrant and the south-west quadrant. It would probably be best to drill under Highway 1 from the north-east quadrant of the Evans Road interchange to the south-west quadrant, a distance approximately equal to the distance they plan to drill the Vedder River crossing.

“West of Lickman Road” where one finds farms and two golf courses. No shortage of space to parallel Highway 1.

“Crossing of drainage canal at No. 2 Road”. I can only assume they mean the Vedder Canal here. To cross the Vedder Canal is a distance of less than 300 metres dike to dike. Less than half the distance Trans Mountain proposes to drill under the Vedder River and adjacent salmon spawning areas.

"No. 3 Road overpass and interchange", again with nothing but farms around. How far from the highway would they like to be?

And so we arrive at the Kinder Morgan pump station on McDermott Road.

This route along Highway 1 need cross no schools where the proposed route between Upper Prairie Road and McDermott Road crosses two. It need have no residences near the pipeline where the proposed route has approximately 157 homes within 50 metres or so. The route along Highway 1 would pose no risk to city production wells or Yarrow Waterworks wells. It would avoid Peach Creek and Browne Creek Wetlands where significant investments have been made in salmon habitat enhancement. It would not put the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve at risk. It would avoid the Vedder Mountain Fault. A route along Highway 1 would also provide easy access for emergency crews in the event of a spill whereas many areas of the proposed route would delay or complicate response in wooded or residential areas.

The Township of Langley contributed in the Joint Final Argument Of: City Of Abbotsford, Fraser Valley Regional District, Township Of Langley, Fraser-fort George Regional District And Village Of Valemount (C68-21-1 - Local Governments Joint Submission Final Argument - A4X5F4):

“The Township of Langley submits that neither the proponent’s application nor the NEB process has provided an appropriate or adequate assessment of alternative routes—including routes that would not place significant burden and risk on the most densely populated municipalities in British Columbia.”

That statement by the Township of Langley holds true in Chilliwack where the proposed route poses unnecessary and potentially severe risks to the health and safety of residents, areas of exceptional ecological value, and the local economy. Water is fundamental to the local economy, and the local economy is a key factor in the quality of life my family and all in Chilliwack enjoy, through access to jobs and services. It is also a significant factor in the real value of my family’s greatest single investment, our home. To give one recent example of the threat to the local economy posed by oil pipelines over the water supply, Molson Coors is building a $200-million brewery in Chilliwack, a project expected to provide up to 1,000 jobs during construction and 100 permanent jobs after. Josh Stewart, Western Canada corporate affairs representative for Molson Coors, said in an interview May 3rd “The water quality in Chilliwack is very high,” and “That’s one of the biggest things when you’re making beer, is making sure the water quality is consistent and high quality.” (Real Estate News Exchange, accessed 4 May, 2017 https://renx.ca/molson-coors-new-brewery-chilliwack/)  From companies that rely on water directly in their processes and product, to offices that require functioning washrooms for staff, Chilliwack’s economy depends on the same water supply my family uses.

The City of Chilliwack has raised many concerns with the proposed route, and in a letter to the NEB dated April 27, 2017 asked for Browne Creek Wetlands to be avoided and a route along Highway 1 to be reexamined. A City press release May 5, 2017 expressed displeasure with the company’s responses to City concerns and said that “Residents should let the NEB know that the protection of our aquifer is a priority.” (http://www.chilliwack.com/main/page.cfm?id=37&prshow=details&prID=355)

The Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe has rejected the company's proposed route stating among their concerns the risk to the aquifer. Many individual Chilliwack residents have also filed statements of opposition to the proposed route based on these and other concerns.

In “Pipeline Regulation in Canada: A Guide for Landowners and the Public”, Chapter 5, the National Energy Board states that “the detail [sic] route hearing is to determine the best possible route” (http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/prtcptn/lndwnrgd/lndwnrgdch5-eng.html, accessed 4 May 2017). This is also stated under the “Detailed Route” tab on the Trans Mountain Expansion web page of the National Energy Board website where it reads “the NEB will take all relevant matters into account to determine the best possible detailed route of the pipeline” (http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/pplctnflng/mjrpp/trnsmntnxpnsn/index-eng.html, accessed 4 May 2017).

I submit that the route proposed by Trans Mountain, in the portion from where it crosses Highway 1 near Upper Prairie Road to the Kinder Morgan pump station on McDermott Road in Abbotsford, cannot by any measure be said to be the best possible route and it must be rejected. Furthermore, I request that the Board also order Trans Mountain to decommission the existing Trans Mountain pipeline between those same points, and reroute it to the new TMEX route also, to completely remove the risk of pipeline spill from the water supply my family and my community depend on.

I look forward to a hearing with the Board to discuss this in person.

(The official version of this document is the copy submitted to the National Energy Board)

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