Many years ago my neighbourhood, which bordered on what is now the Gloucester Industrial Park just north of the freeway and 272 Street, acted to protect the headwaters of a local fish-bearing stream by forming the West Creek Preservation Group. We had been told by Department of Fisheries staff that West Creek, and nearby Nathan
Creek, could be harmed by parking lot run-off as well as industrial pollutants. Both creeks flow directly into the Fraser River and are
very important spawning grounds for salmon due to their close proximity to the Strait of Georgia. West Creek empties into the
Fraser River just east of Ft. Langley and directly across from Albion. Fortunately, the community remains vigilant and both creeks, and others, are now protected by the Glen Valley Watershed Society.
This vigilance by local residents is even more crucial today than it was in the late 1970s as there may be increased threats to the ecosystems of a number of watersheds (and aquifers) from plans to expand the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.
The pipeline has been transporting petroleum products from Edmonton to Burrard Inlet since 1953 and crosses 98 streams and rivers over its 1150-kilometer route. Because it was built in 1953, there were no environmental assessments done by the National Energy Board. The Trans Mountain Pipeline enters the Fraser Valley at Hope and travels close to the Fraser River until it enters Chilliwack, where it takes a turn to the south, close to the Vedder River, and through the rural farming community of Yarrow.
In April 2012, the City of Abbotsford received a staff report regarding the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline’s approximate 42 kilometres stretch through Abbotsford. The pipeline has a 30 metre wide right of way and travels through areas of Sumas Prairie, Sumas Mountain, Matsqui Prairie, Mt. Lehman, and Bradner. The report states that “The Trans Mountain Pipeline right of way through Abbotsford traverses a variety of land uses and features, including productive agriculture lands, sensitive terrestrial and aquatic habitats (including habitats that support populations of species-at-risk), recreation areas, and residential neighbourhoods.” The report recommended that a letter be sent to Kinder Morgan per a 2011 Union of BC Municipalities’ resolution. Council agreed that “Additionally, the letter should emphasize the City of Abbotsford’s expectation for Kinder Morgan Canada to undertake public consultation with the community prior to the commencement of detailed engineering, environmental, and socio-economic assessments, to ensure concerns will be identified and addressed.”
The need for assessments is crucial, as the current 59-year-old pipeline did not have environmental scrutiny that is now required by the National Energy Board Part III. The only assessment that was ever done on the Trans Mountain Pipeline was completed in 2006 when the section traversing Jasper National Park was expanded. The ENVIRONMENTAL SCREENING REPORT Pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEA Act) TMX – Anchor Loop Project, contains a number of references to fish habitat and the Fraser River. The report recognized the importance of the Fraser River to BC and to Canada, and its national proclamation as a BC Heritage river (pg. 7). Rare wildlife species, such as the Bull trout, listed in both Alberta and BC, were found to be widespread throughout both the upper Athabasca River and upper Fraser River watershed (pg. 15).
Numerous adverse environmental effects from expansion of the pipeline were listed including sediment and silt entering watercourses, erosion of disturbed areas proximal to water bodies, deterioration of aquatic ecological integrity, blockage of fish passage during migration periods, fish and aquatic organism mortality, destruction of fish eggs, temporary or permanent alterations in water flow, loss of potential food, and harmful impacts to fish habitat from the pipeline installation and access (pg. 25). The Department of Fisheries and Oceans further determined that pipeline crossings will likely result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat (including riparian vegetation) from the pipeline installation and access in several river systems including the Fraser River (pg. 48).
The report concluded that future expansions would likely be subject to review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. However, significant changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the most recent Federal government’s Omnibus Bill 45, have since limited regulatory oversight of the fisheries to stocks that are of “human value”. Limiting the scope of regulatory oversight in this manner could result in negative impacts to many fish in the creeks that flow into the Fraser River.
The recent Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River addressed threats from oil spills as well and stated “… I have several concerns about post-emergency mitigation and long-term monitoring of the impact of marine spills.” (Commissioner Cohen Pg. 50). Future spills are to be expected, judging from Kinder
Morgan’s own admission of 78 spills in this aging pipeline since 1961.
There have been two spills here in the Fraser Valley since Kinder Morgan purchased the pipeline from Terasen Gas in 2005. On July 15, 2005, approximately 210,000 litres of crude oil were released into the area surrounding the Sumas facility in Abbotsford, making its way into Kilgard Creek on Sumas Mountain. It took 7 days before the spill was located and clean up started. On January 24, 2012, it was reported that a pipeline rupture at the Sumas Tank Farm in Abbotsford occurred spilling approximately 110,000 litres of tar sands crude (bitumen), which is now being transported by the pipeline. People living in the area reported odours, nausea, headaches, and fatigue.
Even the former Port of Vancouver CEO, Chris Badger, admitted at a recent meeting in Vancouver that only a small amount of any / all spills are ever recovered: “Those figures are right, you’re going to get fifteen per cent of a spill recovered, there’s no two ways about it,” Badger said. “That’s why not having it is the best thing to do,” he said, to clapping and agreement. “Not having a spill,” Badger quickly clarified. These recovery statistics are not acceptable, as the pipeline travels over two aquifers in our communities, under school playgrounds, near fish bearing streams, and over farmland that is worth over $2 billion / year in economic activity in the Fraser Valley.
While future spills are to be expected, the cost of clean up of such spills can be enormous. For example, in 2010, 20,000 barrels of diluted bitumen were spilled from the 42-year-old Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River. The river was closed for more than a year, and after costing more than $700 million US, is still not cleaned up according to the US Transportation Safety Board.According to the National Energy Board report of the Jan. 2012 spill at the Sumas Mountain tank farm, Kinder Morgan staff ignored three alarms over six hours.
At the recent “public information meetings” Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline staff were at a loss for words when residents asked why the “emergency response” assurances posted on their “information” boards did not represent the reality of both the 2005 spill into Kilgard Creek nor the 2012 spill at the Sumas Mountain tank farm. When there are so many risks to human health and the environment from toxic diluted bitumen, silence from those responsible is not
Lynn Perrin, Abbotsford
For more information visit: http://www.pipe-up.net