The route of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Chilliwack where it crosses Peach Ponds, the Vedder River and the Browne Creek Wetlands. (City of Chilliwack)

Kinder Morgan president responds to Chilliwack mayor’s aquifer worries

Ian Anderson writes five-page letter to mayor in response to her harsh criticism

Kinder Morgan and the City of Chilliwack continue to go back and forth over the controversial route of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project that crosses the source of drinking water for residents.

In a five-page letter dated June 6, and filed with the National Energy Board, Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson responds directly to a letter Mayor Sharon Gaetz wrote to Trans Mountain’s vice-president David Safari a month ago.

In Gaetz’s letter she said she was “extremely dismayed at the inaccuracy” of Safari’s remark that the aquifer and the municipal water supply “were not raised as a concern along these alignment scenarios by the city.”

“I am truly astounded and would expect more attention to detail and accuracy from an energy pipeline company like yours that is embarking on a major construction project through our community,” the mayor wrote.

In response, in a letter dated June 6, Anderson assures Gaetz the city’s concerns are taken seriously.

“Trans Mountain is also committed to investing significant resources in mitigation measures to protect the Sardis Vedder Aquifer because we understand the importance of this vital resource to your community,” he wrote.

City council had hoped Kinder Morgan could route the new pipeline along the BC Hydro right-of-way in Balmoral Park in Sardis. Other issues addressed by Anderson in his letter is the city’s further query about routing the pipeline along the Highway 1 corridor, and concern about the Browne Creek Wetlands.

So far, the city has only received a highly-redacted copy of a BC Hydro study, which concluded the pipeline was not compatible with the hydro right-of-way. Anderson said BC Hydro has now offered to provide the city with an unredacted copy of the study.

As to the Browne Creek Wetlands, geotechnical data suggest the planned long horizontal drill crossing for the Vedder River won’t work. Instead, the company will use the “direct pipe trenchless construction method.” This means they cannot directional drill under the Browne Creek Wetlands, but Anderson says since the area is dry in the summer that is when they will work.

He added that the construction footprint will not affect the restoration work recently conducted in the wetland area.

“Any impacts will be restored to existing or better conditions,” Anderson wrote.

The city has also asked for vapour monitoring to detect pipeline leaks, but Anderson said Trans Mountain does not believe that to be an effective method of leak detection.

As for the route along the highway, it was determined to be impractical as it would hamper the provincial government’s ability to widen the highway in the future, and there would be engineering challenges at most overpasses in the city.

Provincially, Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness has expressed support for the project, arguing that modern technology means the aquifer will be protected.

Federally, Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl is an outspoken supporter of the project. Just two weeks ago, Strahl put forward a motion in the House of Commons calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to speak out strongly in support.

The Liberal government did approve the pipeline expansion and Trudeau has made speeches in support, but there is some dissent in the Liberal caucus and Strahl argued the prime minister is not championing it enough.