Opinion

COLUMN: Pipeline passes through Surrey

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The excellent series “Oil and Water,” which has appeared in The Leader, has helped spotlight Kinder Morgan’s plan to twin the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

The pipeline is used to transport crude oil and various refined products from Edmonton to Burnaby. It has a branch which heads south across the U.S. border in Abbotsford, and another which transports jet fuel to Vancouver Airport.

While much of the attention has quite rightly been focused on the additional tanker traffic which could originate at the company’s marine terminal on Burrard Inlet, the twinned pipeline would have a major impact on Surrey. Most Surrey residents are completely unaware that the original pipeline runs through Surrey, and installation of an additional pipe in the ground could have a major impact on a number of urban neighbourhoods and industrial areas.

Determining the exact location of the pipeline in the Fraser Valley isn’t simple, but on Tuesday I spoke with a former Trans-Mountain employee who is familiar with the entire pipe route.

The pipeline was built in the early 1950s and first began transporting oil in 1953. At that time, almost the entire route was rural. There were few concerns from neighbouring land owners, and the pipeline did not go through any urban neighbourhoods.

At that time, there were few environmental concerns about pipelines, hydro transmission routes and other signs of what, in those days, was called progress. Widespread concerns about progress were rarely expressed in Surrey until the 1960s, with one of the first and most notable being pioneer and First World War veteran Charlie Perkins’ concern about the routing of Highway 1 behind his 96 Avenue property. That concern accounts for the jog in the eastbound lanes of the highway near 184 Street.

The Trans-Mountain pipeline enters Surrey from the east in the Port Kells industrial area, with a valve located near 194 Street and 94 Avenue. It crosses 96 Avenue and is located close to Highway 1 near 176 Street,  passing to the north of the weigh scales along Highway 1. At this point, it enters the highly urbanized Fraser Heights area.

It passes through and crosses Highway 1 near 108 Avenue and 152 Street, in an area that is currently the subject of heavy construction due to the freeway expansion project. From there, it goes down the hill towards Port Mann and crosses beneath the Fraser River into Coquitlam.

In both Fraser Heights and the older Riverdale neighbourhood, near 148 Street and 108 Avenue, the pipeline is very close to residential properties. In fact, I was told there is a pipeline valve or tank in one Surrey homeowner’s front yard.

Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said the new pipeline may have to use a different route to avoid going through now-urbanized areas. Almost certainly, the twinned pipeline would still pass through Surrey.

It is important that the company begin the process of informing the public of its plans, and in particular, those whose homes and businesses are adjacent to the pipeline. At the same time, plenty of information about the overall impact of the project on the economy, and the environment, is also needed.

The final decision needs to be made based on facts, not fear, but the project needs to be a net benefit to both B.C. and Canada.

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