Strategic or Flailing?

With all the twists and turns of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Browne Creek Wetlands one has to wonder whether there was some long standing strategy that's played out or whether it's just the result of the project flailing as it tries to make progress. Their plans change faster than "interested parties" (as the CER puts it) can comment.

In any case, the damage is done so far as destruction of the bit of forest either side of Browne Creek, and with their latest variance application Trans Mountain go beyond reducing the physical scope of hearing commitments and chip away at whether "construction" means "construction" or whether construction for a different purpose doesn't count.

And unfortunately this time the City of Chilliwack chimed in with support.

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An Abundance of Optimism

If not for an abundance of optimism WaterWealth may not have engaged in regulatory processes for the Trans Mountain project. Certainly we were warned that it is impossible to win in these things. That view was borne out in recent developments around Browne Creek Wetlands.

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Process Puzzle

Got back to check on Browne Creek Wetlands yesterday (June 2).
Things were looking nicely not destroyed.
Browne Creek Wetlands where Trans Mountain want to set up for Vedder River crossing
Coincidentally, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) filed their summary of project filings and correspondence for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project yesterday. In that summary, where the filings relating to Browne Creek Wetlands are listed the words "Not applicable" appeared under the headings "Commission Decision Date" and Commission Decision Filing ID".
 
What does that mean?
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May Updates - TMX, Monitoring, Turtles, Conference, and Road Salt!

Salmon Fry, Peach Creek, Chilliwack, September 2021A longish post, but lots of news!

  • A possible (small) win in Browne Creek Wetlands against the federal government's favourite fossil fuel expansion project.
  • Not only data loggers gone after last year's atmospheric rivers but data logging sites gone!
  • Come see us for World Turtle Day!
  • WaterWealth presenting at SFU's Horizons Conference.
  • Progress on the road salt & salmon study, meet Nikki from DFO.

It's been a cool Spring so far, but we're looking to accelerate field work with the warming weather and make 2022 a great year for community science and camaraderie in and around our shared home waters!

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Trans Mountain Seek Ongoing Salmon Habitat Degradation

WaterWealth Seek to Reopen Route Hearing

Our latest in the never ending struggle to reduce risks and harms posed by the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is now with the Canada Energy Regulator. Yesterday WaterWealth filed 23 pages covering a range of topics on the Trans Mountain project in the Browne Creek Wetlands area, site of a planned open trench crossing of Browne Creek, as well as the major portion of construction for the trenchless crossing of Hopedale Slough, Vedder River, and Peach Creek, collectively referred to as the Vedder River crossing.

This filing was the result of nearly three weeks volunteer work, including three site visits to gather data and photos, and drawing on memory of hearing documents as far back as March, 2017. Most significant in those 23 pages is a request that the CER reopen the route hearing in the context of the Vedder River crossing. A request based on a geotechnical report that was signed "Reviewed by TMEP" in July 2019, but that Trans Mountain did not reveal throughout the route hearing in 2020. Instead, they filed the report in February 2022, with construction at that crossing imminent, and accompanied by a request for relief from timing conditions to rush ahead! The geotechnical report recommends against the Vedder River crossing as planned by Trans Mountain under the conditions that existed there in 2019 and to this day.

Vedder River at sunset. Several people fishing.

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TMX Stakes Out Intent to Ignore Spawning Cycles

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There are three issues in the regulatory process for legitimizing whatever route choices a company makes in a pipeline project1:

  • location of the pipeline,
  • methods of construction, and
  • timing of construction.

In Chilliwack timing was a key issue at Browne Creek Wetlands, a significant ecological area that the City's proposed alternate routes completely abandoned as they rejoined Trans Mountain's route before Peach Creek. (Timing was also a key issue at Watson Elementary School, thanks to efforts of the District Parent Advisory Council2)

Trans Mountain's reply evidence to WaterWealth said:

"Proposed construction timing for Browne Creek and the Wetland will be inside the Least Risk Window (August 1 to September 15) and will avoid critical spawning/incubation periods for salmonids, including Salish Sucker (which have a spawning period of March 1 to July 1), and the breeding period for amphibians (February to late July);"

That was the summer timing approved by the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) in the hearing decision. [UPDATE: See "Bad News Update" at the bottom of this post.]

March 5 we got word that Trans Mountain workers were in Browne Creek Wetlands staking out the construction site. It should go without saying, but for the benefit of any Trans Mountain staff reading, March 5 is not summer.

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Is Trans Mountain Accountable to Anyone?

In their latest move regarding Browne Creek Wetlands not only are Trans Mountain proposing work outside of the timing approved by the regulator, they've even applied for relief from a project condition to do so!

Browne Creek Wetlands was an area of particular interest in the City of Chilliwack detailed route hearing for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. The area is significant not only for salmon and threatened species like Salish sucker and red-legged frog, but also for important functions relating to community drinking water sources and drainage infrastructure and as a much loved recreational area. In an April 27, 2017 letter that formed part of the City's statement of opposition, then Mayor Sharon Gaetz wrote "We request a reconsideration of the route to move the pipeline away from this important and sensitive natural feature."

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Good Riddance 2021. Hello 2022!

Heron with newbornAs 2020 drew to a close ... remember that? Does it feel like about five years ago to you too? Anyway, as 2020 drew to a close, WaterWealth's year end blog "Less Hearings, More Fish" was optimistic.

We looked forward to putting the Trans Mountain Expansion Project behind us, hopeful for a route change in Chilliwack to protect so many vital, valued, and vulnerable community assets.

We were excited to be turning our full attention to climate-focused watershed monitoring. To developing a strong foundation of community science and engagement and sharing our experience with like-minded groups in other watersheds.

2021 was going to be a year of focusing on the world we want rather than fighting federal fossil fuel fixations.

2021 had other ideas.

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Keeping Watch

A trio of updates on the Trans Mountain project. A loss, a win, and a 'we’ll see'.
Bonus content, a couple of games for the kids!

Recent events highlight the value of knowing the history on this project, and keeping watch as it stumbles forward.

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Big Day at Deer Creek

August 3, 2021 was the big day at the Deer Creek off-channel restoration project!

Valley Tank & Container Service, A.D.S Bobcat & Excavating Services, DFO, WaterWealth, and Tamihi Meadows Campground all pitched in on site, while Gerry Enns Contracting, Emil Anderson Construction and Pacific Salmon Foundation where there through funding and support. That giant HVAC truck was amazing!

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The intake to the off-channel area was cleared and water is flowing again through the roughly kilometre and a quarter of great aquatic habitat. (OK, some work still to do.)

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