The existing route of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline in Chilliwack runs through Watson elementary’s schoolyard and residential backyards. The DPAC has organized a meeting Nov. 6, 2019 for parents from Watson and Vedder middle, and feeder schools, to discuss the pipeline expansion project. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Chilliwack DPAC meeting to discuss oil pipeline expansion through school yards

Existing Trans Mountain pipeline route runs through Watson elementary and Vedder middle fields

Parents of students at two Chilliwack schools are being invited by their Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) to a presentation to a meeting on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) on Wednesday.

The existing 66-year-old oil pipeline runs through the school yards at Watson elementary and Vedder middle school, something that has caused some parents concern for years.

The route and the proposed twinning along that same route prompted the Chilliwack board of education to write a letter of opposition to the National Energy Board (NEB).

That unanimous decision came at a September board meeting. Absent, however, were trustees Heather Maahs and Darrel Furgason who have expressed support for TMX, with Furgason calling opposition “paranoid” and “hysteria.”

• READ MORE: Chilliwack school district opposes oil pipeline route through school yards

The pipeline also runs close to Mt. Slesse middle school and Unsworth elementary, as well as across the city’s protected groundwater zone, an area of the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, the source of the city’s drinking water. It was constructed in 1953 before the schools or much of the surrounding Sardis community was built.

In split decisions, the school board has twice declined offers of cash from Trans Mountain, once in September 2015 and more recently on Feb. 26, 2019.

Trans Mountain has an 18-metre easement along the 1,150-kilometre pipeline that runs from the Alberta oil sands to tidewater in Burnaby. The TMX will require a 42-metre easement so the company, which is owned by the federal government, was offered a $36,000 agreement bonus from Trans Mountain, that on top of the $59,400 for Vedder and $76,950 for Watson if the expansion ever happens.

• READ MORE: Oil pipeline company offers cash to expand under two Chilliwack school yards

• READ MORE: Do Chilliwack schools have a plan for oil spills?

The meeting scheduled for Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Vedder middle school is described on an EventBrite page as a free, nonpartisan event hosted by the Vedder middle and Watson elementary parent advisory councils.

Initially the invite was going to go to Vedder and Watson parents an parents of kids in feeder schools, including Tyson, Yarrow Community, Sardis, Evans, and Greendale elementary schools, as well as Sardis Secondary School. Now, however, the invitation is going out to parents of any kids in the district.

Parents of children who live on the south side and attend the district’s early French immersion program at Cheam elementary, for example, may be interested, too, because they may choose to attend Vedder middle school starting in Grade 6.

Here is what attendees will hear, according to organizers:

• a brief description of the Canadian Energy Regulator;

• a history of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and how it relates to Chilliwack;

• understanding why this is a concern;

• guidelines of What You Need to Know in the Event of a Pipeline Emergency;

• a look at local maps, including a suggested alternate pipeline route away from school properties;

• action letters written by the DPAC, and other statements of opposition;

• a Q&E period and an opportunity to hear from parents.

Parents of the two affected schools or feeder schools who want to register for the meeting can do so here: EventBrite.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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The existing Trans Mountain Pipeline right-of-way as it runs through Sardis, including through the back school yards of Vedder middle school and Watson elementary. The pipeline expansion project proposes to run on the same route, expanding the right-of-way. (Maps.Chilliwack.com)

The Trans Mountain oil pipeline runs through the back field of Watson elementary and also Vedder middle school. (Paul J. Henderson/ Black Press file)

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