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New Westminster fears pipeline project could threaten ecological zone

New Westminster is concerned the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project could destroy decades of work done to enhance Brunette River.
Elmer Rudolph
Elmer Rudolph of the Sapperton Fish and Game Club at the fish ladder by the Cariboo Dam on the Brunette River. Like Rudolph, the City of New Westminster has concerns the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion could impact the river's salmon run in the event of a spill.

New Westminster is concerned the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project could destroy decades of work done to enhance Brunette River.

City council has approved a staff recommendation to advise the National Energy Board (NEB) and Kinder Morgan that the proposed alignment adjacent to the Brunette River should be moved outside of the Brunette River’s riparian zone, and to ask that habitat enhancement work in the river’s watershed be provided as compensation for the expected construction impacts near the riparian zone.

“Worst-case scenario, if there were to be a spill in this area, it doesn’t matter how good your spill response is going to be, it would be absolutely devastating to the Brunette Creek and, ultimately, the Fraser River area,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “Given how much this community has worked over the years to really restore that area, I think that’s hugely problematic.”

Coun. Patrick Johnstone said the city has expressed concerns in the past about a proposal to build the pipeline in the riparian area of the Brunette River.

“It would be a shame to actually then take that improved area away and put a pipeline through it. I think it would be an insult to people like Elmer Rudolph and the Sapperton Fish and Game Club who spent decades bringing the Brunette River back from an industrial swamp into an ecologically healthy river,” he said. “It’s a really valuable asset in our city. We have to push back against any threat to that ecological zone.”

Johnstone also noted the pipeline’s route takes it really close to the Brunette interchange, which could impact the city’s ability to manage traffic in that area. He said the city needs to push back against the proposed alignment of the pipeline expansion.

“The NEB puts some pretty strict requirements around buffer zones around pipelines like this. You can’t have a pipeline moving half a million barrels a day of high-pressure oil through an area and it not have an impact on what you are allowed to build and how you are allowed to build roads and overpasses.”

Kinder Morgan is planning to build a pipeline expansion project between Edmonton and the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. A staff report states the pipeline would roughly triple Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline capacity and be used to transport diluted bitumen.

A staff report to city council states the pipeline expansion through Burnaby and Coquitlam proposes an alignment immediately adjacent to the ecologically sensitive Brunette River, which could have “catastrophic” environmental impacts on the Brunette and Fraser River ecosystems in the event of a pipeline failure. In addition, the report states that a proposed project staging area at 430 Canfor Ave. in New Westminster has potential traffic and impacts.

Mark Allison, the city’s manager of strategic initiatives and sustainability, said Burnaby and Coquitlam have different concerns about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. While Burnaby is “fundamentally opposed” to the project, he said Coquitlam’s main concern is impacts on its street network.

“This particular section is a bit of a change. The alignment has gotten much closer to the river than what was in the originally submitted documents,” Allison said. “If the National Energy Board were to consider our request to move it back from the riparian zone, it would put it closer to Lougheed Highway.”

Cote said it’s frustrating to see these types of proposals placed in environmentally sensitive areas like the Brunette River.

“I can only surmise that it’s done because this is the most cost-effective location for such infrastructure to be placed, but when you really think about it, it is the exact wrong place if this infrastructure goes in,” he said.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said a burst pipe in this area would be devastating to the Brunette River.

“If this does go through, I am really worried that it’s just a matter of time if there is an incident,” he said. “We are in an earthquake zone. It could be devastating to one of the biggest salmon-producing rivers in the world, the Fraser River.”

The City of New Westminster has made its concerns about the pipeline project known to the National Energy Board. City official have also met with Kinder Morgan staff to review traffic and environmental concerns about locating a staging area in the Brunette industrial area.