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UPDATE: Council eyes pipeline benefits for pedestrian bridge

Chilliwack council was set to vote Tuesday on whether to accept $800,000 funding from Kinder Morgan
Chilliwack council was set to vote Tuesday on whether to accept $800,000 funding from Kinder Morgan's Community Benefits Program to pay for a bridge linking the Vedder north and south trail links from the Southern Rail Bridge.
— image credit: CHILLIWACK PROGRESS PHOTO

Chilliwack council was set to vote Tuesday on a staff recommendation that the city accept funding from Kinder Morgan's Community Benefits Program.

But even before the votes were tallied, the proposal was drawing fire from critics.

If approved, council would take the next step with a "Memorandum of Understanding" with Trans Mountain Pipeline LP,  with the understanding that signing will "indicate a willingness to receive community funding if the pipeline project receives approval from the National Energy Board (NEB)," according to a news release from City of Chilliwack on Friday afternoon.

The $800,000 in funding would go toward a $1 million pedestrian bridge linking the Vedder north and south trail links from the Southern Rail Bridge.

Ian Stephen, spokesperson for the Water Wealth Project, called the offer

"inappropriate" given that City of Chilliwack hasn't submitted its comments yet, according to records posted on the NEB website.

"The main thing is the timing of this," he said. "We are not comfortable with the timing of this offer from Kinder Morgan and hope that City Council isn't either."

On his blog post he likened the money to a "bribe" since the large sums of money "hinge on the outcome" of the NEB regulatory process.

But the city underlined that signing the MOU would not necessarily "indicate" support for the project.

"Such a resolution (MOU) would not indicate support for the pipeline project and Council will remain committed to working with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) to continue to ensure the concerns of residents are addressed," underlined city officials in the news release.

City officials will still provide direct commentary to the National Energy Board on the Kinder Morgan proposed pipeline expansion and twinning.

"In addition, as a participating member of the FVRD, Chilliwack is able to confirm that concerns over emergency response, environmental mitigation, air shed quality, and the protection of ecological diversity are addressed."

The deadline for commenters is July 23, and Water Wealth itself is an intervenor in the process focused on water resources and aquifer being protected from industry, as well as seismic concerns.

"It just seems really inappropriate that we would be offered anything until they have completed their participation in the NEB process," said Stephen.

They're also concerned about the lack of public engagement so far on the issue.

"I would be very pleased to see the city spend some time and get some public input on this before making a decision. It may not be required of them, but it would be nice," he added.

Kinder Morgan's Community Benefits Program was set up to invest in local communities along the proposed pipeline route, and is "an acknowledgement and thanks in advance for people’s patience as some construction disruption will occur should the pipeline project receive approval," according to the city release.

Although this pedestrian bridge linking the Vedder trails is listed in the Vedder Greenway strategic plan, the funding is 20 years away, due its high costs.

"Should funding be received the bridge project could potentially see construction in 2017."

Merritt has already signed on to the KM Community Benefits program to the tune of $420,000 for trail paving and scholarships, Hope signed an MOU for $500,000 for park upgrading.

The city staff report also indicates a “substantial” amount of funding will also be offered to the University of the Fraser Valley.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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