Chilliwack has more than a passing interest in the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The existing pipeline has, for decades, carried an increasing volume of Alberta oil to tankers on B.C.’s coast, and to refineries in Northern Washington. Since its completion in 1953, neighbourhoods have grown up on top of it, schools have been built around it, and the city’s primary source of drinking water has been drawn from the aquifer beneath it.
Many Chilliwack residents were not even aware of its existence.
That is until Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain’s parent company, announced plans to add a second pipeline to the existing route.
And so began years of wrangling, negotiations, assurances, warnings and protests.
In Chilliwack those concerns remain.
Despite signing a $1.2 million “community benefits agreement” with Trans Mountain, the City of Chilliwack has voiced its frustration with the company’s seeming unwillingness to take seriously the city’s concern for its water supply.
Early in the process, Chilliwack said that if a spill were to occur it would do irreparable harm to the water source its 85,000 inhabitants depend on.
Efforts to realign the proposed pipeline have failed. And even hopes of moving the route farther from wellheads have met no success.
So it is with interest we watch this latest development in the pipeline plan’s progression.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced it was purchasing Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion. As a result, the federal government will own the pipeline running beneath Chilliwack’s feet.
Will that give us any more say on where a new pipeline is built?
Perhaps not. Look at the success municipal governments have negotiating around other federal responsibilities like rail crossings.
But it does give us a chance to state our case before a potentially more receptive audience.
And that’s a chance we shouldn’t let slip by.