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.

The geotechnical report says that in ground conditions found at the Vedder River crossing drilling could cause sinkholes. This happened during Trans Mountain's work at Mary Hill Bypass in Coquitlam, where it inconvenienced traffic. At the Vedder crossing it could create a hydraulic connection between Hopedale Slough, Vedder River, or Peach Creek, and the borepath of Trans Mountain's drilling below.

Even more damning, and the crux of WaterWealth's request to reopen the route hearing, is that the geotechnical report only finds the Vedder River crossing feasible based on an assumption of long-term flood management including maintenance of inner dikes and ongoing gravel removal from the river.

Gravel mining, Vedder River, 2016There is no ongoing gravel removal. Gravel removal has not happened in Vedder River since 2016, in part due to opposition by groups such as the Fraser Valley Salmon Society because gravel removal destroys and degrades salmon habitat. With Pacific salmon populations struggling, many jurisdictions are moving to less destructive flood mitigation.

One of the reasons trenchless crossings are used is actually to protect environmentally sensitive areas by drilling under instead of trenching through. As it stands, Trans Mountain's Vedder River crossing is only feasible if parties to flood management -- City of Chilliwack, City of Abbotsford, the FVRD, the Provincial government, DFO, and First Nations -- are willing to commit to perpetual degradation of salmon habitat in the Vedder River for Trans Mountain's convenience.

Both the BC Hydro powerlines and the Westcoast Energy pipeline (a large LNG pipeline owned by Enbridge) cross the Vedder at the canal, near Keith Wilson bridge. There, a drilled span 100 metres shorter could reach fully outside the dikes, and there are no comparable habitat areas like Peach Creek or Browne Creek Wetlands to deal with. Trans Mountain could follow the BC Hydro lines from near where the pipeline already crosses them before reaching the river, make a safer, simpler, shorter crossing at the canal, then rejoin their old right-of-way where it intersects the powerlines again shortly after.

But they don't want to. And honestly, it will be a surprise if the Canada Energy Regulator doesn't find a way to let the company do what it wants regardless of safety concerns.

We have to try though. For the salmon, for the importance of the Vedder River corridor to this community as recreational space with its wetland areas and trails, for community wells downstream, and for all the other species that rely on this habitat and on the salmon returning year after year.

Browne Creek, 2 April 2022

There's a lot more in WaterWealth's filing, such as the real distance between federally identified critical habitat and Trans Mountain's Browne Creek crossing being 215 metres, not the "approx. 500 m" stated in Trans Mountain's watercrossing inventory.

You can download the full filing here: https://apps.cer-rec.gc.ca/REGDOCS/Item/View/4243359

And if you feel moved to support this work and WaterWealth's other watershed monitoring and habitat work, please check out our crowdfunding page!

 

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published this page in Blog 2022-04-08 15:13:39 -0700