By MIKE YOUDS
There may be no viable alternative to building a pipeline through Lac du Bois Grasslands Provincial Park, but the Kamloops Naturalist Club wants Kinder Morgan to take a long, second look for one.
The company expects to decide by next year on Kamloops routing of its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – either through populated Westsyde or over the protected Lac du Bois hills.
Those who fought to have the grassy hills designated a provincial park almost 20 years ago believe the company’s mind is already made up. As well, members of the club fear that new provincial legislation will make it easier for development activities within protected parklands.
At a Kinder Morgan workshop held in Kamloops earlier this month, club president Jean Crowe and Francis Vyse hoped to learn how the company would explore alternatives to cutting a 90-metre swath through the park. Instead, company officials didn’t even mention the park.
“It was, for us, very upsetting,” Vyse said.
She acknowledged that the option of digging up Westsyde Road, with all of the attendant costs and disruptions it will cause to an established neighbourhood, would be a massive undertaking. Yet the club feels the company is merely taking the least costly option without adequately investigating other options.
“We’ve fought for this park and we’re not giving it up that easily,” Vyse said.
In its facilities application, Kinder Morgan designated the park route as its “selected corridor,” with Westsyde as an alternative. That has not changed and no route has been finalized, company spokeswoman Lisa Clement confirmed on Tuesday. Those same options were presented at the April workshop, she said.
“The information presented and feedback gathered at the Lac du Bois workshop will be included in our B.C. Parks stage two boundary adjustment application,” Clement wrote in an email response. “We anticipate having a decision about this application in 2015. Our route will be confirmed at that time.”
Mayor Peter Milobar said the City hasn’t taken a position on the question.
“We have asked for intervenor status (for the NEB hearings on the project) and have been granted that,” said Mayor Peter Milobar. “Council and staff will have to have that conversation on sites and possible impacts.”
The narrow corridor between the North Thompson River and the hills may leave no other options, however.
“I’m not aware of any that have been brought forward as a feasible routing option,” he said.
MLA Terry Lake, who was on hand as then-environment minister to celebrate a year ago when the park boundaries were expanded, said any route for the pipeline expansion, if it’s approved, has to be assessed in relation to available options.
“Since there is going to be potential disruption, the way they put the land back together has to be weighed against the potential adverse effects of putting it somewhere else. I’m a big believer in parks and grasslands,” he added.
He said that Trans Mountain has a demonstrated capability in minimizing long-term impacts, having built a pipeline within a UNESCO World Heritage site in Jasper National Park several years ago. The so-called Anchor Loop project won accolades from park advocates and naturalists, he noted. A pipeline also underlies Kenna Cartwright Park with little disruption, he added.
Lake said the park amendment act doesn’t facilitate or make it any easier for private development to take place within provincial parks.
“It just really defines what the research activities are,” he said, adding that there has always been an ability to apply for a temporary change in park boundaries to enable projects to proceed. Boundaries are restored once projects are complete.
Environment Minister Mary Polak steadfastly defended the legislation as posing no threat to parks, but didn’t convince everyone.
The legislation has been roundly condemned by environmentalists. Opposition critics said the legislation reduces protection and enables permits for mining and pipeline feasibility studies. NDP leadership candidate John Horgan has pledged to repeal the legislation if elected in 2017.
There are more than 30 park boundary applications currently before the provincial government from companies proposing pipelines, transmission lines and resource roads.