The existing right-of-way for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline cross the back field at Watson Elementary in Chilliwack.

The existing right-of-way for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline cross the back field at Watson Elementary in Chilliwack.

Pipeline approved but Chilliwack water activists fighting for route change

WaterWealth campaign director Ian Stephen says the new pipeline needs to avoid the city's aquifer

First the National Energy Board (NEB), then the federal government and now the provincial government.

All three have approved the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline twinning project.

And while there may be a sense of defeat among activists opposed to the project that will triple the capacity of the 1,100-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, many suggest the approval process was window dressing all along.

Local aquifer protection group WaterWealth Project, however, will soon contact Chilliwack landowners to support them in the process of attempting to at least alter the route so it does not pass over the city’s source of drinking water.

“The NEB report to the federal Cabinet said several times that the route is not finalized and that they expect adjustments could still be made to minimize impacts,” said WaterWealth Campaign Director Ian Stephen.

For Stephen and WaterWealth, the focus is the current route of the pipeline right across the aquifer that supplies water to all of Chilliwack.

“Perhaps the NEB may yet be persuaded not to double the risk to this community’s water supply,” Stephen said.

On Jan. 11, Kinder Morgan Canada welcomed Premier Christy Clark’s government’s approval of an environmental certificate for the $6.8 billion project.

Justin Trudeau’s federal government gave the green light to the project in November after paving the way with announcements of funding for $1.5 billion for increased ocean protection just weeks before.

The NEB approved the new pipeline in May 2016.

All along the project has faced opposition from citizen groups, environmentalist organizations and some First Nations.

But for Stephen and WaterWealth here in Chilliwack, the message is to look beyond that and focus on a new route that avoids the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer.

“Routing optimization” maps from 2014 on the company’s website show various small proposed alternative corridors through the core of Chilliwack, none of which divert the project from the aquifer.

The current pipeline route runs across the aquifer as well as through two school yards in Sardis, near two other schools, and through a number of residential Sardis backyards.

Kinder Morgan said construction is slated to begin in September “with an in-service date for the twinned pipeline system expected in late 2019.”