WaterWealth Halloween Update

zombie-silhouette.jpgHalloween!

And the big scary zombie is still the Kinder Morgan pipeline, though recently with some provincial scope to our involvement that connects the pipeline to the Water Sustainability Act. So while Kinder Morgan's tricks continue to dominate our time at WaterWealth, at least there's a treat of WSA work in the bag!

Kinder Morgan scares up strong response in Chilliwack!

Locally the hearing on Kinder Morgan's realignment application has begun. Intervenors are the City of Chilliwack, WaterWealth, S'ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance, and one individual--Water Resources Engineer EIT Rachel Symington. jackolanternfzy.jpgThere are also 17 Commenters of which one we are aware of is in favour of the realignment.

Most significant thus far has been a letter October 23 in which the City for the first time ever came out unequivocally against a route across the aquifer with "The City categorically opposes the routing of the project through lands proximate to the Aquifer. The Project must be routed away from the City's drinking water source". This is a complete reversal from last December when the Mayor was quoted in The Progress saying “the preferred routing for Chilliwack is a twinning of the existing route,” and a shift even from the City letter of July 17 that still spoke of the 1953 route with the small BC Hydro right-of-way variation as an acceptable route. Another encouraging sign though, the City has hired the excellent law firm of Lidstone & Co., specialists in representing local governments.

After pushing “Off the Aquifer” since even before the pipeline got federal approval, WaterWealth won’t be assuming the City is going to carry the ball now. However these are positive developments. We will be looking for the City’s new stance to continue beyond the realignment hearing (which applies to only 1.8 km of the route) to the much more important detailed route hearings where the possibility of getting the pipeline off of the aquifer (13.5 km of aquifer and probably about a 25 km realignment) will be real.

Kinder Morgan goes bump in the night, right into the Water Sustainability Act

halloween-2867494_350.jpgWell, not really in the night because it would have been dark then, but they did bump into the WSA with installations of spawning deterrents in seven BC streams. This issue has more twists and turns than a Halloween corn maze, but we’ll touch on each piece very briefly.

The company installed snow fence in eight streams, one in Alberta and seven in BC, and had plans to do four more this year and 26 in all. A September 12 company blog post caught the eye of Lynn Perrin, a tireless PIPE UP Network researcher, who then brought it to the attention of the public and federal and provincial authorities.

Public outrage arose from the spawning deterrents being installed in streams that are frequented by several fish species of management concern including Fraser Chinook. Chinook, most of them Fraser Chinook, make up as much as 90% of the diet of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. That orca population has been suffering from malnutrition, the presumed cause of death last month of two-year-old Sonic who was the third young whale out of six born to the Southern Resident orca community in recent years to have died.

Snow Fence in Streams - Halloween Orange & Scary for Fish

Swift CreekThe scary thing for fish is that the snow fences are an unproven spawning deterrent method. While the company touts the measure as being done to protect fish, there is potential for harm to fish to be increased both if the deterrents are not effective, and even if they are effective if subsequent construction takes place outside of least risk work windows and sediment control is not flawless.

The NEB took action not because of fish, however, but because the installations constituted construction under the NEB certificate on the project and the company has not completed pre-construction conditions or received approval for the detailed route of the pipeline. Yes, incredible as it seems, the company used plastic fence to block spawning areas in route locations that have not achieved NEB approval and so which, pending outcomes of route hearings for which the schedule hasn't even been announced yet, may not end up being the actual locations of the pipeline if construction does happen. Spooky stuff indeed!

Unfortunately the extent of the NEB’s action to date has been to tell the company to stop installing deterrents. So far they are allowing Kinder Morgan to leave the eight already installed in place and to remove them on Kinder Morgan’s chosen schedule. WaterWealth, economist Robyn Allan, PIPE UP, Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation, S'ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance, and Salmon River Enhancement Society have all written the NEB and/or DFO with concerns over the issue. We await further response from federal authorities.

Provincially, the spawning deterrents were construction as defined by the BC Environmental Certificate--again with pre-construction conditions not fulfilled--and in-stream work under the Water Sustainability Act. The company should have completed those pre-construction conditions, should have had route approval from the NEB, and should have had either a section 11 authorization under the Water Sustainability Act or have had the in-stream work included in a permit under the Oil and Gas Activities Act.

Swift Creek snow fence, image courtesy DogwoodPhoto: Swift Creek snow fences, courtesy Dogwood. Click for larger image.

While we have no funds to hire professional advice, WaterWealth has friends and we have been talking informally with fisheries and legal experts about the complex interplay of laws, regulations, and overlapping jurisdictions this issue entails. There are a couple of avenues by which action on the provincial aspects of the issue may be pursued. Pursue it we will because laws with respect to at-risk fish populations, and particularly at-risk fish populations that contribute to the food supply of an endangered orca community, should not be ignored with impunity.

Last mentioned here, but actually one of the first actions WaterWealth took on this issue, is a complaint lodged with the College of Applied Biology against the biologist who oversaw the spawning deterrent installations. Described on the company blog as a “Trans Mountain fisheries biologist,” we believe the biologist failed to uphold the ethics and professional standards of the College both with respect to the fish, given that use of snow fence in this way is in the biologist’s own words “without a body of supporting evidence for its success”, and with respect to advice to his employer (or client, we’re not certain of the working relationship) by apparently putting them into non-compliance with federal and provincial certificates and BC laws. The College is of course the best judge of its own standards. We look forward to seeing how the College proceeds.

Kinder Morgan Raising a Constitutional Question on Permit Delays!?!

We could take lessons in audacity from Kinder Morgan. In Chilliwack the President of Kinder Morgan Canada met with the Mayor to give assurances that the company take our community’s concerns seriously right about the same time that the company applied for the realignment that would move their new pipeline even closer to City wells, with a plan that initially included drilling the pipeline 20 metres deep into the aquifer! Now in Burnaby Kinder Morgan filed applications for local permits, some of which Burnaby says were incomplete, and a mere 10 days later filed 13.jpg2,365 pages in 13 documents complaining that Burnaby is dragging its heels on the permits and asking for an expedited process from the NEB to not only overrule Burnaby bylaws, but to be used also for other unspecified local and provincial laws that may arise as inconvenient to the company’s desired construction schedule. Kinder Morgan asked the NEB to have Attorneys General (BC’s and others) respond regarding intent to provide submissions only three working days after the request was filed, and for written replies from Burnaby and the Attorneys General to be filed within seven working days. Oddly, Kinder Morgan made no mention of this motion and constitutional question at its latest technical working group meeting with the City of Burnaby only eight days before. Today a lawyer for Burnaby filed a letter responding to Kinder Morgan’s filing and pointing out the absurdity of the schedule Kinder Morgan requests on the issues.

Clearly Kinder Morgan prepared those documents in advance of the Burnaby permit applications and are leveraging Burnaby's open opposition to the project to attempt to forestall any impediments from jurisdictions junior to federal government for the remainder of the project. This will have implications for every community on the pipeline route and for the province. The response from Burnaby today included a suggestion that other municipalities be given opportunity to respond. WaterWealth will be watching this process closely and communicating our concerns to the Attorney General as it proceeds.

Escaping from the looming spectre of pipeline issues, there’s good news on the stream-keeping work. Conditions were scary in Chilliwack’s salmon habitat enhancement areas, with Peach Creek not even flowing for much of its length only a very short time ago,ghosts.jpeg and salmon arriving from the ocean to Vedder River.

The first good rains we had made no appreciable difference as parched land and forests sucked up the water. Thankfully with more recent rains water levels have risen quite dramatically and Peach Creek once again flows to the Vedder. Chum have been seen in Browne Creek Wetlands in both Street Creek and Trestle Channel. Still no sightings in Peach Creek but we’ll be back on those waterways Thursday November 2nd with Pearson Ecological and hope to count some salmon on the Peach Creek side of the Vedder as well.

Further afield, much of the province remains dry. The Salmon River watershed and South Thompson area are still listed at drought level 3. Climate projections for BC have said we could expect wetter wet times and dryer dry times with more weather volatility overall. That certainly looks to be the case now as plenty of streams in areas like Vancouver Island and the coast are well below normal flows (and Whiteman Creek near Kelowna at 1%!) while others in the north are as high as 600%. Sukuna River near Chetwynd 897% as of yesterday!

Extreme flows whether low or high can create tough conditions for spawners, and regrettably we’ll see many more fire seasons before the watershed impacts of this year’s record fire season are fully understood. All the more reason to be grateful for our participation in the Pacific Salmon Foundation funded work with Pearson Ecological and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation and others to develop improved community water monitoring protocols for BC. Quality citizen science shared through open data infrastructure is going to be increasingly necessary to guide effective use of limited conservation resources.

Plus it’s relaxing to just sit by a stream and watch fish.
Happy Halloween everyone!

Vedder River at dusk

 

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