Pipelines – Detailed Route Hearings
The background of this proceeding is set out in this newsletter in Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC Detailed Route Hearing MH-010-2020 – Chilliwack School District, District Parent Advisory Council, and City of Chilliwack.
Detailed Route Hearing MH-015-2020
In 2017, Yarrow Ecovillage Society Cooperative (“Yarrow”), as well as four individual Yarrow members, filed statements of opposition (“SOO(s)”) in relation to Tract 2438 and were granted five detailed route hearings. On 8 August 2018, the NEB combined these five hearings. Each landowner retained their individual hearing number; however, the NEB indicated that it would hold a single proceeding pertaining to Tract 2438 and would release a single decision. Pro Information Pro Environment United People Network (“PIPE UP”) was granted commenter status. In September and October of 2019, Chilliwack and Yarrow filed SOOs seeking to resume 2017/2018 detailed route hearings. An SOO from an Indigenous group was submitted and withdrawn.
On 31 January 2020, the CER issued a Procedural Direction explaining that there are a number of instances where the geographical focus of one detailed route hearing overlaps with that of one or more other hearings. This Detailed Route Hearing MH-015-2020 relates to Tract 2438 in Segment 6.4 (the “Lands”). All other tracts of land in Segments 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4 are the subject of other detailed route hearings. These five hearings are referred to collectively as the “Chilliwack-Area Hearings.”
Overview of the Proposed Route on the Lands
The following figure depicts Trans Mountain’s proposed detailed route, as well as alternate routes proposed by the WaterWealth Project (“WaterWealth”) (supported by Yarrow) and Chilliwack in the area of the Lands. It shows Trans Mountain’s proposed route (in red); Chilliwack’s alternate routes (in dark blue); WaterWealth’s alternate route, supported by Yarrow (in green), and other features in the area of the Lands.
Figure 3 – Trans Mountain’s proposed route, Chilliwack’s alternate routes, WaterWealth’s alternate route, and other features in the area (C07675)
Is Trans Mountain’s Proposed Route the Best Possible Detailed Route?
In 2002, a group of people purchased Yarrow with the aim of creating a more sustainable way of living – a housing settlement incorporating an organic farm. The idea of the Ecovillage founders is that they could work with nature, enhancing soil and riparian habitats so that abundant and healthy food could be grown. The Yarrow Ecovillage Community Farm covers 20 acres of land and is certified organic. Yarrow submitted that the proposed route may imperil the Lands’ certified organic status, which would significantly degrade the Yarrow brand. Yarrow farmers sell their produce to customers in local markets.
The CER found that the organic topsoil layer would be impacted by the proposed route on the Lands. However, the CER was of the view that, with the conditions imposed following the Certificate Hearings and Trans Mountain’s commitments and site-specific mitigation measures, impacts on the rich organic topsoil will be appropriately mitigated.
With regard to concerns raised regarding Stewart Creek, the CER found that the proposed route will result in adverse impacts on fish and fish habitat, including the riparian habitat of Stewart Creek. The CER found the mitigation measures identified in the Pipeline EPP and the site-specific reclamation plan are appropriate to minimize the impacts on fish and fish habitat in the creek. In particular, the CER placed weight on Trans Mountain’s commitment to stabilize the bed and banks of the stream channel and, at a minimum, return the bed and banks to a condition that is consistent with pre-construction conditions.
With regard to the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, the CER found that the likelihood of impacts on Chilliwack’s water supply from pipeline construction or a leak or spill on the Lands is negligible. It further found that mitigations would reduce both the likelihood of a spill and the consequences should one occur.
The CER found that Trans Mountain appropriately applied its routing criteria in this case. It noted that Trans Mountain had the onus to demonstrate that its proposed route is the best possible route and that its proposed methods and timing of construction are most appropriate. The CER found that Chilliwack’s alternate routes did not differ from Trans Mountain’s proposed route on the Lands and did not address Yarrow’s concerns. Any advantages of these proposed Chilliwack routes would be out of the geographic scope of this detailed route hearing. With regard to the route proposed by WaterWealth that was supported by Yarrow, that route was considered in Detailed Route Hearing MH-026-2020 and was found to be inferior to Trans Mountain’s proposed route.
The CER found that on a balance of probabilities, Trans Mountain’s proposed route, along with the commitments and conditions that apply to it, is the best possible detailed route.
Are Trans Mountain’s Proposed Methods of Constructing the Pipeline the Most Appropriate?
Trans Mountain proposed to construct the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (“TMEP”) on the Lands with a conventional open-trench construction methodology. For the crossing of the watercourse on the Lands, the proposed methodology is isolated open-cut with water quality monitoring. The CER found that open-trench construction and installing the pipeline to a depth of 1.2 meters below ground level, which meets the requirements of CSA Z662, is appropriate. The CER was of the view that several of Trans Mountain’s proposed mitigation measures are particularly responsive to Yarrow’s interest in protecting organic soils and the requested conditions. The CER was also of the view that the mitigation measures identified in the Pipeline EPP and the site-specific reclamation plan are appropriate to protect the fish and fish habitat in Stewart Creek during construction and reclamation activities.
Is Trans Mountain’s Proposed Timing of Constructing the Pipeline the Most Appropriate?
The CER noted that Trans Mountain expects construction activities on the Lands to occur in three phases spanning from June to September 2021 (with the reclamation of the Lands potentially extending to October 2021), subject to regulatory approval. Yarrow made no submissions on this timing, and Chilliwack’s submissions were with respect to other lands. The CER found that Trans Mountain’s proposed timing of constructing the pipeline across the Lands is the most appropriate.
The CER found that Trans Mountain’s proposed route was the best possible detailed route on the Lands, and the proposed methods and timing of constructing the pipeline were the most appropriate, subject to the commitments made by Trans Mountain and ongoing compliance with the Certificate OC-065 conditions.