Kinder Morgan announced Thursday it would commit up to $3 million for a multi-year program to protect wild Pacific salmon in waterways affected by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Trans Mountain signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) to spend as much as $500,000 for a third-party assessment by PSF of Trans Mountain’s construction across salmon-bearing watercourses in B.C.
A further $2.5 million is to be provided for grants to community groups and student bursaries.
Critics of the proposed twinning of the 1,150-kilometre oil pipeline say a spill during or after construction could be devastating to already sensitive salmon populations.
And Chilliwack-based WaterWealth Project says that while there is an element of the “valid concept of polluter-pay” in the announcement, the funding announced should not be “dependent on the good graces of industry.”
“The $500,000 for third-party construction assessment is entirely appropriate to the project,” WaterWealth director Ian Stephen said. “The other $2.5-million is Kinder Morgan PR money. One bad spill from that pipeline could do damage many times greater, as well as damage that cannot be measured in dollars.”
The new NDP government promised it would do what it can to stop the pipeline expansion, which was already given the green light by the federal government and the National Energy Board. Kinder Morgan says construction is set to start in September.
In a press release issued July 27, the company said “up to” $500,000 will go to the PSF for the assessment.
“This will assess construction impacts and post-construction reclamation measures against commitments made to regulators, aboriginal groups and local stakeholders,” according to a backgrounder. “This assessment is in addition to Trans Mountain’s environmental monitoring, NEB inspection, DFO and other required regulatory oversight during construction and post-construction monitoring of reclamation efforts.”
The company said PSF will source a registered professional biologist and the verification reports will be posted publicly by PSF.
“This investment to protect wild Pacific salmon is a key pillar of our commitment to construct our project responsibly and leave meaningful long-term legacies for B.C.,” said Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada in the press release. “I respect and value PSF’s independence and science-based perspective and we are proud to build on our past support for Pacific salmon and other important regional programs that advance research and conservation of B.C.’s unique freshwater and coastal ecosystems.”
PSF president and CEO Dr. Brian Riddell said his is an independent, science-based organization focused on conserving and restoring wild Pacific salmon and their habitats.
“Our work will focus on pre- and post-construction assessments of wild Pacific salmon habitats and potential risks to wild Pacific salmon,” Riddell said.
PSF has conducted similar types of monitoring in the past, including assessments of habitat reclamation measures implemented in conjunction with the Port Mann Bridge expansion.
The funding announcement Thursday also included $1 million for PSF’s Community Salmon Program, which gives grants to community groups for projects such as stream mapping, hatchery upgrades, improvements for fish migration, new habitat structures, streamside enhancement, educational signage, and local school programs.
Stephen said this money flowing from Kinder Morgan through PSF will give his organization pause in the future.
“Community groups like WaterWealth who have applied to the Pacific Salmon Foundation in the past will have to weigh carefully whether to apply in future, knowing where any funds received may have originated,” he said.
The company also announced $1 million for Pacific salmon research, including tagging of juvenile salmon for long-term data collection.
A further $500,000 will be provided for student bursaries to be handed out by PSF over a 20-year period.