Reaction to Chilliwack signing with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project for a $1.2 million pedestrian bridge is starting to trickle in.
Pipe Up Network director Michael Hale was surprised that Chilliwack voted Tuesday to go ahead with signing.
Kinder Morgan upped the initial offer from $800,000 to $1.2 million to build the greenway linking bridge over the Vedder River, and Hale said the extra cash was a factor.
“Why did Chilliwack Council reverse direction?” asked Hale in a news release. “Kinder Morgan offered more money. If the city had stuck to its guns and waited until the federal cabinet made its decision in December, what might have happened?”
He figures the offer would still be on the table.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement was signed as part of an effort by Kinder Morgan Canada to “work with pipeline-affected communities to identify local opportunities to give something back” in recognition of the public inconveniences and temporary disruption created by construction of the proposed expansion.
Not all are convinced.
“The risk of spills into the aquifer, the wetlands, or the Vedder River— a healthy part the struggling Fraser River salmon fishery—is high,” said Hale. “If a new pipeline were to be built in this area, protecting that habitat is going to cost a lot more than $1.2 million.”
He’s not convinced that the risks to the Vedder-Sardis Aquifer were answered in any way, as the pipeline would cross sensitive habitat in Chilliwack, such as the Peach Creek Salmon Channel and Browne Creek Wetlands.
Pipe Up member Dan Coulter said everyone should keep the Husky spill in Saskatchewan in mind, which has affected the water supply of three cities.
“What’s the cost of risking the drinking water for 78,000 people? Chilliwack has decided it’s $1.2 million,” said Coulter, who is also an affected Chilliwack landowner.
But the head of Kinder Morgan took a different spin on it, expressing in a release, how pleased they were to be able to sign an agreement and give something back to Chilliwack.
“We are committed to offsetting impacts of the project by providing direct and long lasting benefits to the communities we operate in,” said Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada.
The pedestrian bridge over the Vedder River in Chilliwack will link both sides of the river in a greenway loop, and the funds will pay for the entire project.
“We are happy this agreement will support a much-needed pedestrian bridge that will help connect the community,” Anderson said.
Kinder Morgan “values” the relationship it has with communities, he added.
They’ve inked 18 such agreements totaling more than $8.5 million, along 92 per cent of the pipeline corridor. More deals are expected, but several large cities have said no, such as Vancouver and Victoria.
Trans Mountain has been pursuing Community Benefit Agreements, like the one with Chilliwack, with those along the pipeline corridor to provide direct benefits to communities if the proposed expansion project is approved and constructed.
“We are grateful that Trans Mountain will fund the Vedder Greenway Pedestrian Trail Bridge project in acknowledgement of the disruption pipeline construction will bring to our community should it proceed,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz.
She called the bridge project “an important pedestrian link” connecting trails, creating additional opportunities for safe recreation and transportation.
“We appreciate the communication we have been able to share with Kinder Morgan and look forward to a positive working relationship,” Gaetz said.
This week council revisited the decision to turn down the funding.