Pipeline too close to home for co-op

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Lil Cameron had the feeling something was up when she saw surveyors out on Government Street on Wednesday.

That was followed on Thursday morning in the same area by a crew using unmarked vehicles. They were spray painting orange blotches every few feet on the ivy covering the concrete retaining wall that borders the Halston Hills Housing Co-operative where she lives.

Cameron approached City of Burnaby workers who were working on a fire hydrant nearby and asked what was going on at the wall. “They said, ‘It’s not us, it’s Kinder Morgan.’ “

The housing co-op is off Government between Horne Street and Halston Court. The spray-painted blotches have its residents concerned their homes could be affected by Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline.

“We knew that we would potentially be in the right-of-way area but no, we didn’t know that we were going to actually have it going through our property,” said Cameron.

Essentially, if the project involves the co-op’s retaining wall it would affect their homes, Cameron said.

“It’s not a fence, it’s a retaining wall. It’s holding all our property, right. There’s units behind there, the right-of-way is 20 feet, there’s no way it can go there … Unless they put it in the middle of Government.”

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is currently buried across Government Street from their homes, she said, noting the co-op has intervenor status in the National Energy Board hearings on the project.

Cameron wants to know whether the company plans to expropriate any of their property and if so, why they weren’t aware of that. So far, they’ve not received any notices from the company making them aware of that possibility.

“We’ve received nothing,” she said. “I’d just like to know what they’re doing on our property.”

Cameron contacted her MP, Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby-Douglas), about her concerns.

“I think from what Lil described to me, it sounds like the route for the new pipeline right through the middle of the co-op,” said Stewart.

The concerns stem from the pipeline proposal not yet having a set route, in contrast to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal which had one route that was debated throughout the process, he said.

“There’s a growing dissatisfaction with the National Energy Board process and this is another example of why it’s flawed. You kind of have to chase the company around to find out where they’re thinking of laying their million-barrel-a-day pipeline route. It seems rather ridiculous.”

If the project is approved by the NEB, properties along the proposed corridor could be expropriated, Stewart said. For the co-op residents, it’s “very stressful to think you might potentially lose your house … They have a right to be worried.”

Kinder Morgan is seeking approval for a 150-metre-wide corridor within which the final route would be located.

“If it’s approved by the National Energy Board, all the land within that 150 metres is subject to right-of-way claims by the company,” he said, noting if it’s not used now, it could be used for future pipelines.

“It’s forever. Once this route is approved, it doesn’t kind of blow away after they build the pipeline, it is there forever.”

Stewart said the land needed for the pipeline would be at least the width of Hastings Street. “It’s not a ditch. This is a massive construction.” Think of the Canada Line, he said.

Kinder Morgan said by email that it does not have the right to expropriate.

“In the unlikely event that we cannot reach an agreement with a landowner, the NEB can grant right of entry to allow us to build and maintain the pipeline, but not to expropriate or take away any land or homes from owners.”

The co-op residents would not have received any notifications because it is not located within the study corridor, the company said.

However, its interactive map (http://application.transmountain.com/interactive-map) does show the corridor just running right along the Government Street edge of its property.

On Friday afternoon, the company determined the crews did not have anything to do with the pipeline project. “I can confirm the work you are referring to was not done by work crews related to the trans mountain expansion.

“It is our understanding that the workers seen and the spray paint has to do with city water works.”

But Brian Carter, Burnaby’s manager of public works, said the surveyors weren’t from the city.

“Almost all our vehicles are marked,” said Carter, who even went out to the site to see the markings for himself.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” he said of the bright orange blotches spray painted on ivy overhanging the retaining wall. “I couldn’t understand it. It just looks odd.”