Trans Mountain - Chilliwack Alternative Routes

route_alternatives_300w.jpgWhen the City of Chilliwack began engaging in the National Energy Board's detailed route hearing process for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (before the project got paused by the courts) they led with a statement of opposition that included:

"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"

Now, as detailed route hearings begin again, the City of Chilliwack seems to want look after the federal Trans Mountain Corporation's short term interests instead of the long term interests of our community.

One thing people writing the city in support of a safer route have heard back is that detailed route hearings are only to discuss the best possible route within the company's approved corridor. Perhaps the City are getting bad legal advice, or perhaps they're making bad political decisions, but in any case the question of scope of detailed route hearings has been raised, and settled, previously.

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GIC One More Time

As part of restarting regulatory processes for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project the National Energy Board is submitting for re-approval by the Governor in Council (federal Cabinet) all seven routing variances that occurred after the original project approval.

In Chilliwack, where the project is proposed to follow a route no entirely new pipeline project would even contemplate, the federal government had three opportunities to make a correction for public safety;

  • when they approved the project the first time;
  • when they approved a realignment of project segment 6.3 in Chilliwack, and;
  • when they approved the project the second time.

At the time of the first approval, WaterWealth letters to the federal government urging a correction here, by simply moving the project a short distance to the north to follow Highway 1, were responded to by directing us to the NEB detailed route hearings.

Route hearings are an adversarial process against the multi-billion dollar company's team of management, engineers, consultants and lawyers, played out before a panel of a regulator widely viewed as industry-captured. Of 94 detailed route hearings concluded prior to the original project approval being tossed out by the federal court, the NEB had ruled against the company exactly 0 times. The Trans Mountain project will in all likelihood be the last heard by the NEB. The federal government are in the process of replacing them with a new Canadian Energy Regulator.

At the time of the second approval, with the company now a federal Crown corporation, our letter was ignored with no reply from federal Ministers.

Canadians have heard the Trudeau government talk of listening to communities. We have heard them say that projects will only proceed if they can be built safely. The Expansion Project's segment 6.3 realignment in Chilliwack going to the Governor in Council for re-approval gives the federal government one more opportunity to walk their talk.

The following letter was sent to federal representatives on August 5, 2019. We urge Chilliwack residents to send their own letters. We should not have to fight a Crown corporation through an adversarial route hearing process to defend the drinking water source our community depends on -- though if it comes to that, we'll be in it to win it.

The list of email addresses we used for this letter is:

Justin.Trudeau@parl.gc.ca,
Amarjeet.Sohi@parl.gc.ca,
Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca,
Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca,
Marc.Garneau@parl.gc.ca,
Carolyn.Bennett@parl.gc.ca,
Ralph.Goodale@parl.gc.ca,
Navdeep.Bains@parl.gc.ca,
Bill.Morneau@parl.gc.ca,
Francois-Philippe.Champagne@parl.gc.ca,
Mark.Strahl@parl.gc.ca

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TMX, Again

2016-2019.jpg
Meet the new pipeline approval. Same as the old pipeline approval.

We have legitimate health and safety concerns in Chilliwack that transcend divisions of pro-pipeline or anti-pipeline, and that could be easily resolved if anyone in authority could put down the politics long enough to talk honestly about the pipeline.

As Program Director at WaterWealth I’ve written federal representatives at key moments in the regulatory process in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, as have many in our community.

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Letter to Government of Canada on Trans Mountain

Climate impacts are being seen on waters across Canada, and certainly in B.C., with changes in water flows, temperatures, pH, algae growth, spread of invasive species, and effects of wildfires. As climate impacts become increasingly significant, more and more people question the development of new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure and corresponding increase in fossil fuel production and emissions.

Despite this, the Government of Canada has consistently indicated their intention to approve the Trans Mountain Expansion Project again following the original approval having been quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal.

declaration.jpgWaterWealth's position is that growth of fossil fuel production and infrastructure should have ended with the 20th century. However, if the government are intent on building the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, political gamesmanship on the project must not cause them to overlook mitigations that can diminish or avoid direct impacts on waterways and communities in the project's path. Chilliwack, where WaterWealth is based, is one such community where needless risks are imposed by the project as planned.

The federal government have indicated they will announce their decision on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project by June 18, 2019. If they do approve the project they have the power to apply conditions that could mitigate impacts on communities. The following letter was sent this morning (21 May 2019) to federal decision makers and representatives to ensure that they are aware of needless risks to Chilliwack and the route change that could mitigate those risks.

WaterWealth encourages others to express their views on the project prior to the June 18 federal decision date. The email addresses of the federal representatives this letter went to are: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca, Amarjeet.Sohi@parl.gc.ca, Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca, Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca, marc.garneau@parl.gc.ca, carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca, ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca, Navdeep.Bains@parl.gc.ca, Bill.Morneau@parl.gc.ca, Francois-Philippe.Champagne@parl.gc.ca, Mark.Strahl@parl.gc.ca

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North Thompson 6 Replacement: Pre-construction

project_overview_300w.jpgApril 3, 2019 Trans Mountain obtained NEB approval to replace the existing Trans Mountain pipeline’s 6th crossing of the North Thompson River.

The generosity of recent donors, transportation provided by Peter McCartney of Wilderness Committee, and hospitality and accommodations provided by the Tiny House Warriors, allowed Ian Stephen from WaterWealth to visit unceded Secwepemc territory to view the crossing project area on April 17. Snow from knee deep to hip deep in the forest limited how much of the site could be accessed in the time available, but it was good to at least get some sense of the project site before construction begins. (Click image for larger view)

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WaterWeath Version 2.0!

WaterWealth has been doing this 'caring for our shared home waters' stuff for a while now, and we've learned a thing or two. For instance, from the water bottling industry and Trans Mountain.

Responding to requests for information from residents of the Chilliwack River Valley regarding a water bottling proposal recently, we were looking at the numbers around water licencing and bottling and thinking along the lines of;

wwp_money.jpg"Hang on. You've got the decimal wrong. You've converted cubic metres to litres wrong. You've forgotten how many digits there are in billion."

But no, the numbers were right. So then we thought "Why are we not selling bottled water? It's like a licence to print money!" So we're updating our tagline from "Our Wealth is in Our Water, Let's Protect It!" to "Our Wealth is in Our Water, Let's Cash In!"

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Water Sustainability Act Update March 2019

You may have seen the news February 19, 2019 that the Province extended the waiver of water licence application fees for existing groundwater users. The exemption was originally from February 29, 2016 to March 1, 2017, the first year of a three year transition period for existing non-domestic groundwater users to get into the licencing system.

Then the exemption got extended to December 31, 2017.water_drop_sad_50w.jpg

Then it got extended to March 1, 2019

Then it got extended to March 1, 2022.

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TMX Update March 2019

The NEB reconsideration on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project gave us a bit of a rest from that issue. Yet in some ways heightened urgency arose for the project broadly, and in Chilliwack specifically.

1,355 Watercourse Crossings. How many will they pave?

stewart creek before
Stewart Creek before.

In 2010 Trans Mountain found that their pipe had become exposed by erosion in Stewart Creek in Yarrow. They didn’t report it to the NEB until 2018 when they filed an Operations and Maintenance notice for repairs. Stewart Creek is heavily impacted by diversion and channeling, resulting in a habitat-poor stream overall. Even so, species found in the stream include Rainbow Trout, Steelhead, Cutthroat Trout, Coho, Chum, Peamouth, Brassy Minnow, Redside Shiner, Northern Pikeminnow, Prickly Sculpin, Threespine Stickleback, Lamprey, Pumpkinseed, Brown Bullhead, and Green Frog. The pipeline crosses Stewart Creek on the property of the Yarrow Ecovillage. Ecovillage residents had worked hard at habitat restoration along the stream on their property, creating an area of rich, diverse habitat where the greatest densities of salmon fry and other aquatic life are found.

It was here that to fix their exposed pipe Trans Mountain turned part of the stream into a brick half-pipe.

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Streamkeepers tackle Climate!

WaterWealth really had no role in the water bottling issue in the Chilliwack River Valley, other than to respond to requests for information (see blog post "A Win for Local Organizing"). Coincidentally though, we may soon be spending a lot more time in the Chilliwack River watershed with a new climate monitoring program!onset_mx2201.jpg

Inspired by the work of US Forest Service Research Fish Biologist Dan Isaak and enabled by the introduction of research-grade temperature loggers at significantly lower cost and greater ease of use than previous models. Once funding is confirmed and pending input and go-ahead from the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe in whose territory the program is proposed to take place, we will begin monitoring hourly temperatures of the Chilliwack River and 30+ tributaries.

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A Win for Local Organizing

bc_bottled_water_550.png(click for larger image in a new window)

The graph above is for bottling of plain freshwater in BC. It doesn't include mineral water or flavoured water drinks. It also doesn’t include any licences that haven’t shown up in publicly available provincial records yet, such as Nestlé and Vancouver Water Enterprises (formerly Pacific Water International) and unknown numbers of others. Even without those it’s clear freshwater bottling and export are growth industries in BC, to the consternation of many who think that the harms of putting water into plastic bottles to sell around the world and risks of doing so under BC's regulatory regime outweigh the benefits.

Recently, a classic case of grassroots community organizing put a cork in one water extraction proposal in the Chilliwack River Valley.

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