Should plastic snow fencing placed along the bottom of streams be called “pre-construction” or “construction” of the proposed twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline?
That seems to be the nub of a dispute between Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board (NEB).
Kinder Morgan installed the snow fencing in seven streams in the Blue River to Valemount area in mid-August. Fencing was laid in the bed of one stream near Hinton, Alberta, as well.
Purpose of the fencing, which the company calls deterrent mats, is to prevent salmon and other fish from spawning in locations where the pipeline will cross.
“Once the spawning season is complete, the mats are removed,” a media release from Kinder Morgan stated. “Within Alberta and B.C. combined, we’re proposing to use this method at 26 locations.”
Not having the mats in place could mean construction could be delayed up to a year, the company said.
Kinder Morgan reported on installing the mats on its blog in mid-September.
NEB ordered Kinder Morgan to stop installing mats, saying that a number of conditions required by the federal regulator have not yet been met by the company.
“Trans Mountain must obtain all applicable approvals from the board which permit the commencement of construction … including the installation of mats,” said a letter from NEB to Kinder Morgan dated Sept. 22.
NEB ordered that the installation of any other mats be discontinued, and the company has complied.
An energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, Keith Stewart, said it’s hard to believe that Kinder Morgan didn’t know or failed to check to see if its anti-spawning strategy was allowed.
The mats are plastic snow fencing pinned down with rocks.
Not all creeks and rivers the pipeline crosses will require mats.
“If the streambed section at the right-of-way crossing is covered with large cobbles or boulders and there is no suitable spawning substrate, the deterrent mat is not necessary,” said Trans Mountain fisheries biologist Calum Bonnington.
“Trans Mountain is committed to minimizing the environmental impacts of construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project,” Kinder Morgan spokesperson Ali Hounsell said in an email. “We have requested that the NEB allow us to continue with the preventive measures aimed at protecting spawning fish as part of our fisheries protection program. In that request we outlined potential impacts and possible alternative construction methods. We will await the NEB’s determination and if we have to look at alternatives, we will take all the mentioned factors into consideration.”
In a letter to NEB dated Sept. 28, lawyers acting for Kinder Morgan asked for permission to go ahead with installing deterrent mats in four creeks near Hope: Ladner, Dewdney, Karen, and one unnamed.