Pipeline could run through flood plain

The rebuilt Trans Mountain Pipeline could run under the Salmon River floodplain near Fort Langley, or under a publicly owned golf course.

The two options are both under consideration by Kinder Morgan, which owns the oil pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby through Langley.

Greg Toth, a senior project director with Kinder Morgan, presented the alternate routes to the Langley Township council Monday as part of an update on the controversial plan to more than double the oil pipeline’s capacity.

The pipe ships 300,000 barrels of oil per day, and the expansion would almost triple that to 890,000 barrels per day.

The current route heads around Fort Langley and then under modern Walnut Grove.

Kinder Morgan has proposed a couple of alternative routes to avoid heavily populated areas. One of them would pass through the Salmon River floodplain, while another would go farther west, then head north through the Redwoods Golf Course, a Township-owned piece of land destined to eventually become a public park.

Councillors had a number of questions about spills, environmental and groundwater safety, and the proposed routes.

“Your pipeline’s running over quite a distance where residents draw their water from private wells,” said Councillor Kim Richter.

She asked about what will happen if there is a leak at any point.

“I think we have a very good safety record,” said Toth.

He said there have been 78 spills along the TransMountain since it was built in the early 1950s. Of those, he said about 70 per cent were at pumping stations and terminals.

Another 18 were on the main line, Toth said.

If there is a spill, Kinder Morgan holds $750 million in insurance coverage for a cleanup, and it is in the process of possibly increasing that to $1 billion.

The pipe must be buried a minimum of 0.9 meters, about three feet, under ground, and it will be deeper under some objects. Much of the tunneling under creeks and other obstacles will be done by boring, rather than digging up the ground, said Toth.

That was small comfort to Fort Langley landowner Byron Smith.

“The proposed pipeline will bisect our farm,” said the fourth generation Langley farm owner.

He is worried about the quality of groundwater, which is used for both farming and drinking water, and of the coho habitat on the nearby Salmon River, he said.

The existing route runs farther west before heading north, but the route as currently proposed would come close to some of the meandering watercourses of the Salmon River floodplain, and would put it closer to the village of Fort Langley than the current pipeline.

“It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when and where it will leak,” said Smith.

He’s also concerned the pipe will impact the ability to farm his family’s property. His land has drainage ditches deeper than 0.9 meters, Smith said – will they be impacted by the pipeline? He also worried farmers won’t be able to plow deeper than 30 cm, and that they won’t be allowed to cross the pipeline with heavy equipment without prior permission.

“We did not ask for this pipe, nor did we want it,” he said.

Smith urged the Langley Township council to become an official intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings that will determine the pipeline’s fate. Hearings and regulatory issues are expected to take the next two years, now that Kinder Morgan has officially proposed the route.

Almost anyone who may be affected by a project can apply to be an intervenor to an NEB hearing.

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