Farmers closely monitoring gas pipeline replacement through Chilliwack

Enbridge installing higher standard of pipe as per NEB order through built up area

With the subject of pipelines on the minds of many British Columbians, it’s worth pointing out the pipeline replacement project currently underway in Sardis is not an oil pipeline.

But that doesn’t mean Enbridge’s (formerly Spectra; the two companies merged in February 2017) work to replace a 2.2-kilometre section of its natural gas pipe through the agricultural area east of Vedder Road in Chilliwack is entirely without controversy.

Half a dozen farmers clashed with the company three years ago and actually denied Spectra access to their land. At issue was soil damage due to previous digs in the right-of-way on the farmland, and long-term compensation for crop loss.

The pipeline runs beneath approximately 20 private residential and farm properties as well as the parking lots of Superstore, Cottonwood Mall and Chilliwack Mall.

For the most part, the farmers came to a resolution with the company, but farmer and University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) agriculture professor Tom Baumann is watching them closely, very closely.

“For the landowners, [the crews] make one transgression after the other trespassing over what’s allowable but they are getting better,” Baumann told The Progress. “We keep telling them ‘you must not work in rain.’ The last rain that we saw, they were working in puddles.”

During a visit to another farmer’s property, Baumann noted the opposite: plumes of dust blowing around from equipment in the dry weather, something he said the company should be taking care of by spraying water.

But overall, he’s happy with the legal resolution with the company and the work so far.

“There are minor hiccups but it will go smoothly,” he said. “The relationship is still good.”

Work to replace 600 metres of pipe in the commercial area was completed in 2014.

Because of increased population growth, National Energy Board (NEB) safety guidelines require the section through the built up area to be replaced.

“The work is being done as part of an ongoing requirement to ensure a safe, secure and structurally sound natural gas pipeline system,” Enbridge communications advisor Jesse Semko said via email. “It involves replacing the existing section of pipeline with a higher standard of pipe that is more resistant to third-party damage. As development and population growth occur near a pipeline, a section of pipe may need to be replaced or upgraded to a higher classification standard.”

The work is on a stretch of pipeline that runs from a farmer’s field approximately one kilometre west of Prest Road to the Southern Railway. The pipeline crosses Prairie Central and Chilliwack River roads, and there will be some disruptions to drivers. On June 26, a large crane was in the middle of Prairie Central Road installing a Bailey Bridge across the ditch next to the road, although traffic was still routed through.

Semko said the work is scheduled to be completed in October 2017, although Baumann said he expects it to be done sooner than that, predicting the company is being cautious with timelines.