Pipeline foes aim to protect Coquitlam park
Members of the Colony Farm Park Association say they were shocked to learn that grassy fields on the west side of the regional park could be a construction site for the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Jane Thomsing, a CFPA director, said her group is worried Kinder Morgan’s proposal to assemble the pipeline at Colony Farm Regional Park before placing it in a tunnel under the Fraser River could disturb wildlife and have long-term impacts.
“It’s for the public to enjoy, it’s not for a big oil corporation and certainly it’s not for a construction site for big oil,” Thomsing said of the former farm that used to supply produce, milk and meat to Riverview Hospital.
The protest comes as Trans Mountain prepares for an open house Thursday, April 3 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Executive Plaza Hotel in Coquitlam, and spokesperson Lizette Parsons Bell said the company is open to hearing concerns from public.
“We understand on a project of this scope and size there are going to be lots of questions, and rightly so,” she said. But Parsons Bell said the construction work would be temporary, to allow workers to weld together pieces of the pipe before placing it beneath the Fraser, and the area would be restored.
“We are fully committed to restoring Colony Farm park back to the state it’s in and we would like to work with the community to find out what enhancements we can do,” Parsons Bell said.
But members of the CFPA, Burke Mountain Naturalists and the Tri-Cities Green Council are upset Trans Mountain didn’t do more to publicize the proposed scope of work, and they are worried that habitat for herons, barn owls, raptors and lazuli buntings could be disturbed.
Elaine Golds, the CFPA chair, said she learned about the proposal at an invitation-only workshop last week and wants more details. She plans to present her concerns at a Metro Vancouver Parks meeting Thursday.
“A decision should not be made before it goes to the Metro Vancouver board,” she said, noting that mitigation after the work is done might not be enough to repair the damage.
“They just promise to restore everything and make it all just fine. It’s not fine as far as I’m concerned,” said Golds (The Tri-City News’ Green Scene columnist).
Trans Mountain has yet to finalize the route for twinning its pipeline and has many regulatory hurdles to jump, including hearings with the National Energy Board. But if the preferred route running under the Fraser to Colony Farm from the east side of the Port Mann Bridge is chosen, there are precedents for allowing a regional park to be used for similar kinds of work.
Ron Wood, acting manager for Metro Vancouver Parks’ Central Area, said parks have been used for this kind of work before but he hasn’t seen any details of Trans Mountain’s proposal, which would need a full impact assessment, including environmental and public impacts, before it is approved.
For Trans Mountain, the issue is trying to find a route that satisfies public and environmental concerns while avoiding private property. Three possible routes for twinning the pipeline through Coquitlam from Surrey have been identified but only one meets those conditions so far, and Parsons Bell said the proposed work at Colony Farm would be well away from the recreational area and wouldn’t block Colony Farm Road, although it would require a 1 km-long strip of land.
But according to the Burke Mountain Naturalists, the fields proposed for the work (west of Colony Farm Road) that used to be for farm activities are an “extremely valuable type of habit for many species” year-round.
As well, the group says, the work could intrude on a hedgerow near Mundy Slough that was previously planted as mitigation for the loss of habitat when the third runway was built at Vancouver International Airport. The group wants to know how compacting soils in the work area could be avoided.