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.

In a letter dated February 13, 2018 Coldwater Indian Band sought clarity on whether the Board will hear routes outside the approved corridor, because they expected to "lead evidence (subject to funding) of at least one other alternative route through the Coldwater Valley that is a better option than the corridor approved by the CPCN." The funding they referred to was advance funding from Trans Mountain for the process, which they received.

coldwater_alternatives_b5-27_p17_300w.jpgThe route Coldwater was interested in pursuing is the "West Alternative" shown in green on this map from the project application (click for larger view). The route Trans Mountain settled on and that became the approved corridor was the "Modified East Alternative" shown on the map as a blue and red dashed line.

WaterWealth wrote February 19, 2018 to support Coldwater's argument and "to submit that, as Coldwater say was indicated to them and as was indicated to WaterWealth by Natural Resources Minister Carr in letters attached, detailed route hearings must include opportunity to consider routes other than the corridor proposed by Trans Mountain so as to alleviate risks to communities and provide the best possible detailed route for the pipeline."

Trans Mountain responded February 28, 2018 arguing that "route alternatives outside the approved corridor do not fall within the List of Issues and any evidence regarding such alternatives is beyond the scope of the detailed route hearing process." They argued similarly March 5, 2018 in their written evidence.

The NEB settled the issue March 12, 2018 in a letter where they said "Evidence of an alternative route outside of the approved corridor falls within the scope of Issue No. 1 in the List of Issues for all detailed route hearings". (emphasis added)

Proceedings that followed in the Coldwater hearing demonstrate that alternative routes being in scope for detailed route hearings was no longer in question.

Coldwater filed their written evidence April 9, 2018 including evidence for the West Alternative.

In their reply evidence filing April 20, 2018 Trans Mountain no longer tried to argue that routes outside the approved corridor are out of scope, including in a letter (pdf) "In any event, we submit that Trans Mountain has appropriately followed the Board’s directions and typical practices regarding reply evidence and alternative routes. In prior detailed route hearings for the Project, landowners, affected persons and intervenors (collectively, “Participants”) have raised alterative [sic] routes in their written evidence and Trans Mountain has addressed these alternative routes in its reply evidence". (Which of course begs the question, if alternative routes had been raised and responded to in prior detailed route hearings why did Trans Mountain try to say that was out of scope in the Coldwater hearing?)

And in their actual reply evidence (pdf) document, page 3, Trans Mountain include "on March 12, 2018, the Board confirmed that Coldwater could submit evidence on the West Alternative". (emphasis added)

All of this information has been provided to the City of Chilliwack. Following the Coldwater hearing it is indisputable that routes outside the approved corridor are within the scope of detailed route hearings. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misinformed or trying to deceive you.

UPDATE: As this blog post was being written the City filed a pair of 2019 statements of opposition numbered 1 and 2. Taking the second one first, #2 lists City properties that Trans Mountain did and did not include in their 2019 notice and argues that the City has not been provided sufficient information to assess how the project will affect the City in those locations.

2019 statement of opposition #1 says that it is supplemental to the City's 2017 statement of opposition, is more concerned with the aquifer and talks of incorporating a trench lining. It ends by saying that the City "expects to make submissions, provide evidence, and challenge the evidence of Trans Mountain about the most appropriate routing, timing and method of construction of the Project in the Aquifer with respect to its impact on the City Lands." (emphasis added)

bemidji_spray.jpgNote the words "in the Aquifer". A trench lining sounds like a good idea, if high pressure pipeline spills were like kicking over a bucket. But they aren't. Oil from a large high pressure line -- in the case of the new Trans Mountain pipeline one carrying almost thousand litres per second -- can spray hundreds of metres in the event of a rupture, as happened at the Bemidji Michigan spill (pdf) where groundwater was contaminated in 1979 and, since they couldn't clean it up despite efforts that included 5 years of pump-and-skim remediation, they turned it into a spill research site. Near our City wells such a spray could turn storm drain infrastructure into multiple points of access to the drinking water source we all depend on every day.

The responsible choice

The pipeline route is not only a decision we make for ourselves. The children of this community and even future residents who haven't been born yet will bear any consequences of the choice we make now.

Trans Mountain have to dig a new trench across Chilliwack to put the new pipe in. They can dig that trench away from schools, residential areas, City wells, Yarrow WaterWorks Wells, salmon spawning areas of Peach Creek and Browne Creek Wetlands, and the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve by following Highway 1 between points where the pipeline is already at the highway near Upper Prairie Road and McDermott Road. Drop two pipes in a new trench along that alignment, decommission the old one between the same points, and the safety of Chilliwack's water source from pipeline spill would be guaranteed.

You can email mayor and council via the City website, or find more info and a template to start from on our Action Network page.


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