Dispute resolution is the next step for Chilliwack over the KM Trans Mountain pipeline route. Pictured is a section of pipeline near Jasper. (Kinder Morgan Canada photo)

Chilliwack opts for dispute resolution over KM pipeline

Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson indicated willingness to talk about Chilliwack concerns

It’s a concrete way to deal with Chilliwack concerns about the Kinder Morgan pipeline route cutting through some of its most pristine natural areas.

Council agreed on Tuesday afternoon to participate in “alternative dispute resolution” at the National Energy Board level.

“We are grateful the NEB has given us this opportunity to resolve our differences, and it shows they do take our concerns about our watershed and our aquifer seriously,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz during the council meeting.

That same day, a letter from Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson arrived at City Hall, indicating “a willingness” to talk about the specific concerns Chilliwack has around the proposed pipeline routing.

City council has sent two letters of objection to the NEB so far about the KM pipeline expansion route, citing the importance of protecting Chilliwack’s drinking water source, the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer and the need to protect its natural areas such as the Browne Creek Wetlands.

The NEB replied with an invitation for Chilliwack to participate in their conflict resolution process to take a shot at resolving the issues.

At this week’s city council meeting, Coun. Sam Waddington publicly acknowledged the messages of concern and opposition received by council and at city hall about the proposed pipeline route going through sensitive parts of the city.

“We heard the community loud and clear on this,” said Waddington. “They said they wanted council to push this as an issue, and with the community backing, it gives us a louder voice, to be heard by Kinder Morgan and the NEB.

“I hope they listen.”

Waddington described the provincial government situation as an “unknown climate” right now.

Correspondence about protecting drinking water in Chilliwack has been going back and forth between City of Chilliwack and Kinder Morgan for months.

However, a previous letter from Kinder Morgan showed “little concern” for the safety of the Sardis-Vedder aquifer, and the community water supply sources, according to the written response from City of Chilliwack reps.

In a letter dated May 1, Kinder Morgan officials advised Chilliwack council there is “no possibility” of routing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion within the BC Hydro right-of-way in Balmoral Park, and provided a heavily redacted report as its rationale. The BC Hydro option is seen as an alternative to going through the aquifer.

The City has requested a complete version of the report through the Freedom of Information Act, which an expert will be reviewing for Chilliwack.

The choice they face with the pipeline twinning is between running the pipeline above the aquifer, or exhausting every other routing opportunity, which includes looking at using the right-of-way property of BC Hydro, or the ROW of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The second concern in the City of Chilliwack letter to the NEB had to do with pipeline construction and long-term spill risk to the Browne Creek Wetlands, just south of the Vedder River. The proposed construction called for tunnelling under the wetlands. Due to geotechnical constraints, construction will have an impact on this city resource.

“We request a reconsideration of the route to move the pipeline away from this important and sensitive natural feature,” reads the city letter to NEB.