Letter to NEB re Kinder Morgan water crossings

Trans Mountain has filed a request for 26 watercourse crossings on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project to be evaluated for Fisheries Act authorizations for contingency crossing methods. The NEB requested additional information. Oddly, in their response Kinder Morgan seem to indicate many proposed watercourse crossing timings that have already begun, or even already passed.

In light of the pipeline not having been approved for construction yet, and the current situation of drought and wildfires in B.C., WaterWealth filed the following letter with the NEB requesting clarifications and for the NEB to evaluate these watercourse crossings based on current, not historical, conditions.

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Water Issues Heat Up with Summer

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Strong parallels appear between local and global water issues as a global heatwave exacerbates freshwater stresses. Algae blooms affect many waters, leading to fish and aquatic mammal die-offs and warnings for people to avoid contact with the water. Record heat drives wild fires around the globe, releasing large amounts of carbon and diminishing the ability of the land to hold water between periods of precipitation -- at the same time that intense precipitation is causing washouts and flooding such as was seen in Toronto August 7th. A recreational Fraser Sockeye fishery was announced at the same time that news appeared that the Fraser River was getting too warm and high pre-spawn mortality rates might be expected. 

Yet for all these stresses there are people stepping up to respond!

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Trudeau Government Buys Kinder Morgan's Failing Pipeline

A81964-2_Appendix_C_-_Overall_Map_Showing_the_PPBoR_Segments_-_A5J2R1.jpgThe Trudeau government today committed all of us to buy the entire Trans Mountain pipeline system and expansion project. This has many serious implications for everyone in Canada.

Easy to see are the costs, which will stretch from the initial $4.5-billion purchase price to at least $11.9-billion to get through construction. That figure is based on cost estimates that Kinder Morgan did not update for their Kinder Morgan Inc and Kinder Morgan Canada AGMs, both of which were this month. Care to hazard a guess why they didn't update those estimates? That figure is also only correct if a Crown corporation can build something like the expansion project without cost overruns. (Kidding! Of course there will be cost overruns!)

Less certain are questions around the on-going NEB processes and conditions compliance. Some NEB conditions are specific to the company's contracts and financial arrangements. There are route hearings that won't be finished until at least October. With the government to take ownership in August, how will those NEB processes and commitments be transfered or replaced?

pa110223_sm.jpgAlso uncertain are the implications for Canada's international standing on climate and Indigenous rights and reconciliation, and the spill risks inherent in the 65-year old legacy pipeline that runs through ecologically and economically vital areas on its way from Northern Alberta to the Southwest corner of BC. Kinder Morgan has done repairs in hundreds of locations on the old pipe in recent years, in some places patching and in some places replacing the old pipe. That work has not been done in the populated areas of the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver where it will be most difficult and expensive and where the costs of a spill would be greatest.

Today's announcement seems like a very smart move for Kinder Morgan. Somehow the Trudeau government seem to think it's a good investment for Canadians. As for WaterWealth's role, to date the federal government have been able to keep the concerns of families in the path of the pipeline at arms length, pointing that outstretched arm at the company and NEB processes. Now as the (soon to be) new owners, will our own government be more responsive to these concerns than Kinder Morgan was?

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Residents Sidelined

Burnaby gets a lot of press in relation to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Meanwhile Chilliwack actually produced the greatest number of statements of opposition to the route of the project, with almost half of all statements filed with the NEB on the over 1100 km project.

Typically each person who files a statement of opposition that meets the requirements of the NEB Act gets a hearing to make their case before an NEB panel. How would the NEB handle the volume of statements of opposition filed from Chilliwack?

sign_and_wells_300w.jpgWell, they'd exclude almost everyone from the detailed route process, declaring concerns about our drinking water sources to be "general concerns". Which is what they did March 13. Incredibly they issued the hearing order for our area without having ruled on Kinder Morgan's realignment application in one of the most critical parts of the proposed route in Chilliwack! It's a vital time to give the City your input. Contact info at the bottom of this post!

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Chilliwack Realignment - Redux

Might we be forgiven for thinking on January 18 when the Chairperson declared the Chilliwack Realignment hearing adjourned, that all that was left was to wait for the NEB Panel's decision?

hydro_towers.jpgThere was still one NEB information request that Kinder Morgan were to respond to on February 2, but it was regarding electrical issues around the BC Hydro towers. The pipeline routes in play are the one the old pipeline is already on and another BC Hydro said is acceptable in a letter included with Kinder Morgan's realignment application. There wouldn't be anything too significant in that February 2 filing, right?

Wrong. (jump to March 8 update)

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Chilliwack Realignment Report

Happy New Year!

December and January have been consumed with preparation for and participation in the Chilliwack realignment hearing for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project. There really are other issues! Fracking dams in the North, WSA regulations, wild salmon, Site C, and monitoring local waterways are some of the other things WaterWealth had varying levels of engagement in through 2017. Others like Vedder River gravel mining and water bottling we follow with interest as others take those on.

Below is an update on the realignment hearing. By necessity it only touches on some key points of what went on in the hearing. Full transcripts are available on the NEB website.

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November 2017 Update

november_33.jpgNovember was a whirlwind month for WaterWealth.
We like to get these updates out just before the end of the month, but lately it's been too much to do, not enough days! Can we pretend this is November 33rd?

November was a month full of streamkeeping field work, pipeline process, and that dam Site C. It was also a month full of rainy days, with Metro Vancouver recording 27 days of rain to match the record set for November back in 1953!

Streamkeeping: local efforts with province-wide goals

WaterWealth streamkeepers welcomed the rains in Chilliwack as parched forests first soaked it up and finally streams began to rise. Chilliwack residents who frequent the trails along the well established salmon spawning grounds of Peach Creek were saying in October that they had never seen it so low. Much of its length there was no surface water at all! But as the water rose, so came the salmon and in November spawning Chum could be found all along Peach Creek.

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What's sauce for the goose....

What if we all played by the rules multi-billion dollar international industry players envision for themselves?

In August and September this year Kinder Morgan began covering spawning grounds that their proposed pipeline route intersects with plastic snow fence in an effort to prevent spawning where the company later want to dewater streams and trench across.

spawning deterrent photo courtesy of Dogwood
Plastic snow fence in Swift Creek.
Click for larger image.

Snow fence is unproven as a spawning deterrent, but the company expects that by covering spawning gravel with plastic fence they will later be allowed to dry and trench those stream locations during parts of the year when eggs and larvae of salmon and trout could be expected to be in the gravel.

A quick look at the definitions of "construction" in either the NEB certificate or the B.C. environmental certificate for the pipeline project is all it takes to see that Kinder Morgan were out of line in terms of process, never mind ecological values. Pre-construction conditions have not been fulfilled and the route of the pipeline has not been approved. What's more, the company did not apply for authorizations for instream work under the B.C. Water Sustainability Act or hold a permit for it under the Oil and Gas Activities Act. The NEB ordered Kinder Morgan to stop the installations, but they allowed the company to keep the ones already done. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (B.C. EAO) is investigating. In documents on the B.C. EAO website is a letter in which the company claims that no authorizations from any level of government are needed for turning spawning beds to non-spawning areas with plastic fence.

Some of WaterWealth's work is done in streams. Of course when there may be eggs or larvae in the gravel we keep our feet out. In an email yesterday to Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (responsible for administration of the Water Sustainability Act) and CCed to the B.C. EAO, WaterWealth imagines "What if we could work in streams any time we want, like Kinder Morgan expect to?"

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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!

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Kinder Morgan Realignment IR#1

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Kinder Morgan has applied for a small route change in Chilliwack to their Trans Mountain Expansion Project. The route change, if approved, would move the pipeline out of a BC Hydro right-of-way to instead cross Watson Elementary School and run through back yards of residential neighbourhoods. The change would also move the pipeline closer to City of Chilliwack drinking water wells.

WaterWealth is an intervenor in the NEB hearing for the route change. We oppose the route change, primarily for the added risk to children attending Watson Elementary School and to our community's drinking water supply.

What follows is our Information Request #1 to Trans Mountain on the proposed route change. (Formatted to appear similar to the original document)

[Update: The City did a very thorough information request. It is not available on the NEB website yet, but a pdf copy is here. One note, there is mention in it of "two pipeline leaks in 2013 in the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer area." That is in error. The 2013 leaks were near the Coquihalla Summit (one at the summit and one about 40 km east). An easy error to make as the document referred to in that part of the City's IR is largely about the aquifer and the context of the mention of the two spills is not immediately apparent if one does not know what "Kingsvale North and KP966" refer to.]

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