Neighbours of a farm property east of Chilliwack are relieved Friday to hear Kinder Morgan has backed off its proposal to scrape the soil off 50 acres of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), gravel it over, and use it for the pipeline expansion project.
As Kinder Morgan moves to the start of construction on the controversial Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project in September, Laidlaw residents near the St. Elmo Road property were alarmed at the proposal to use the site for pipe storage and a work camp that would house hundreds of employees.
“Due to a number of factors, including stakeholder feedback, Trans Mountain is no longer considering using the St. Elmo Road site for the expansion project,” Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) spokesperson Ali Hounsell said Friday. “We have notified neighbours of the decision.”
Noreen Patrick who vociferously opposed the proposal, as she understood it, said Friday she was happy about the change of plans and she commended the company for listening to concerns.
On July 13, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) approved the company’s request for non-farm use of about nine square kilometres of farmland along the route across B.C. The majority of that land is for, or adjacent to, the pipeline right-of-way, but the group of residents in Laidlaw were worried about a plan to use the ALR property for pipe storage and a work camp.
“We are just concerned about the impact on the land itself,” said neighbour Brad Willocks who helped gather signatures for a petition. “They want to take off the topsoil and then gravel it for a storage yard and living quarters for workers.”
The properties in questions make up about 45 to 50 acres in the St. Elmo Road area near the Hope Scale north of Highway 1 near the Fraser River.
“Our first concern is [the land is] in the Agricultural Land Reserve and it’s supposed to be used as farmland,” Willocks said. “It’s not an industrial site, it’s never been industrial in this area. It’s all farmland.”
The 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMEP) has been approved by the federal government and the previous provincial government, and will nearly triple the capacity of the 64-year-old pipeline that brings product from the Alberta oilsands to the port in Burnaby.
In a decision rendered July 13, the ALC’s executive committee agreed to the company’s use of 869.2 ha for the project, that despite expressing its own concerns about the protection of agriculture. Of the total ALR land, 128 ha is for the existing right-of-way (ROW), 210.4 ha is for new ROW, and 530.75 ha is for temporary workspace directly adjacent to the pipeline to facilitate construction.
Regarding a further 106.5 ha, however, for temporary stockpiles, worker camps and office-use sites on non-adjacent ALR land, including the St. Elmo site, the company was ordered to make separate applications.
The announcement to not use the St. Elmo property comes, coincidentally, a day after the provincial government announced it would join the legal action to stop the pipeline expansion project.