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Chilliwack won’t seek intervenor status KM hearing

Site where the current Trans Mountain crosses the Peach Ponds near the Vedder River in Chilliwack. - Black Press Photo
Site where the current Trans Mountain crosses the Peach Ponds near the Vedder River in Chilliwack.
— image credit: Black Press Photo

Chilliwack officials have decided not to apply for formal intervenor status in the upcoming NEB hearings for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project.

The plan is to submit a letter outlining Chilliwack safety and environmental concerns instead, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

Part of the reason is because Fraser Valley Regional District had done so.

Last week FVRD formally submitted its application for intervenor status to participate in the National Energy Board hearings, and Chilliwack is a member of the FVRD.

The intervenor option, which includes presenting evidence, could have cost the city upwards of $300,000 to participate.

“We decided it would not be in our best interests to hire lawyers and duplicate the work being done by FVRD.

“So the city is sending a submission outlining a few things City of Chilliwack is concerned with.”

Water protection is paramount.

“What we are asking for first and foremost is protection of the Sardis Aquifer, since that’s our drinking water,” said Gaetz. “If the pipeline traverses the aquifer we want to make sure all the latest technology is employed, and that all risks are mitigated.”

There’s concern about the aging pipeline system beneath parts of Chilliwack that needs to be replaced. If there are disruptions, they have to be minimized and restoration must be part of the process.

“We want to make sure our citizens’ interests are being protected during the pipeline replacement, as well as protection of the Vedder River,” she said, adding the pipeline maintenance protocols, as well as inspection and accident reporting has to be developed in detail.

“That’s their (Kinder Morgan) main job. But people in Chilliwack need to have the confidence that it’s all being looked after.”

Some of those concerns include protection of Cheam Wetlands, as well as air quality, noxious weeds, Experience the Fraser and emergency response.

Chilliwack covers a large proportion of the costs for FVRD regional parks, such as Cheam Wetlands, which is why it’s a big regional concern, Gaetz noted.

“We have asked them not to traverse Cheam Wetlands,” she said, adding that one reason is to safeguard the “rich biodiversity” found in the wetlands.

Individuals and groups directly affected by Kinder Morgan’s expansion of Trans Mountain pipeline had until noon on Feb. 12 to submit an application to act either as intervenor, or to provide written comment, to the NEB during its review of Kinder Morgan’s facilities application.

The company has applied to twin the existing 60-year-old Edmonton to Burnaby pipeline at a cost of $5.4 billion, nearly tripling Kinder Morgan’s carrying capacity along the route.

At a special FVRD board meeting last Tuesday night, directors debated what pipeline issues are of most concern to them, the cost of applying for intervenor status, and whether such an application would overlap with those that member municipalities are making on their own.

“We’re doing it on a small budget and will start with $5,000, which represents a week’s work by an FVRD staffer,” said Gaetz, who is also chair of the FVRD. “That gives City of Chilliwack the reassurance that FVRD will be working on our behalf.

“We’re glad they have their foot in the door as an intervenor. And if they need to accentuate our issues, we’ll be paying for that.”

The Water Wealth Project spokesperson Sheila Muxlow took to social media upon hearing how local governments will participate in the NEB hearings.

“Great news yesterday on the City of Chilliwack providing a letter of comment on the proposal by KinderMorgan to transport heavy oil through our home community; and the Fraser Valley Regional District applying for Intervenor Status!

“In addition the PIPE UP Network and The WaterWealth Project have applied for intervenor status ensuring that a strong representation of people with concerns can be heard to ensure the best interest of those who call the (Fraser) Valley home.

“Good things happen when folks work together,” Muxlow added.

She also noted that a group called Sto:lo Collective was also seeking intervenor status.

--with files from Alina Konevski

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