The Fraser River Discovery Centre (FRDC) has dipped its toe into the controversial waters of the Kinder Morgan pipeline debate.
Earlier this month, Kinder Morgan revealed it was going to bypass neighbourhoods in Surrey where its current line runs in favour of building its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline twinning along the Fraser River. It would parallel the new South Fraser Perimeter Road before crossing between the Pattullo and Port Mann bridges en route to its Westridge Terminal in Burnaby.
Catherine Ouellet-Martin, executive director of the New Westminster-based FRDC, is calling on Kinder Morgan to make sure the Fraser River is protected before proceeding with the new route.
“Pipelines have risks. Our concern with pipelines are the same ones as in residential areas. There are risks, leaks happen,” said Ouellet-Martin. “This is of concern when you look at the Fraser River and its environment. We understand the need for pipelines, it’s something that’s hard to avoid. That being said it has to be done properly as we don’t want to have something that affects the salmon, the ecosystem and the river. That’s something that’s a natural concern.”
At this point, the FRDC is not opposing the plan. She said there are three pillars to the centre’s approach to the river—environmental, social-cultural and industrial. Industry, she said, is important to the health of the region, but has to respect the environmental and social aspects of the Fraser.
“They have to work together and they have to mind each other to be sustainable and healthy. When one of these pillars affect the others we have to find that balance,” said Ouellet-Martin.
“It is a difficult balance and that’s what we’re trying to protect. It is not an easy discussion to have.”
Weighing those balances, she said, went into the centre’s recent decision to conditionally support the building of a coal terminal at Surrey Fraser Docks if the company goes through the proper permit processes to address the social and environmental concerns raised by its proposal.
“We’re watching that carefully. Our support is conditional,” said Ouellet-Martin.
Although the FRDC has been mostly known for its educational programs at the centre located at the Westminster Quay, it also has a “voice of the Fraser,” said Ouellet-Martin. “It’s one we haven’t activated a lot. It’s very important to be able to educate the public about the issues that affect the Fraser River.”
Ouellet-Martin also offered up the FRDC’s facility as a site for public consultation about Kinder Morgan’s plans and was contacted by the company on Wednesday about starting up a dialogue. “I assume they understand well the importance of having a transparent process and a safe pipeline.”
The completed twinning, if approved, would cost $5.4 billion and would carry 890,000 barrels of oil per day, triple the current capacity, to be loaded on to tankers in Burrard Inlet.
– with file from Jeff Nagel