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Fighting for farmland

Byron Smith is fighting plans to run a pipeline through the Langley Township farm that has been his home his entire life. - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
Byron Smith is fighting plans to run a pipeline through the Langley Township farm that has been his home his entire life.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

As Byron Smith walks past the slough on the 31-acre farm his family owns, a flock of geese takes angry flight, squawking into the air.

Smith points to the place where Kinder Morgan is planning to run an oil pipeline, not far from the Salmon River.

The ground underfoot is soaking wet.

“This is a flood plain,” Smith says.

“I don’t know how they’re [Kinder Morgan] going to manage it.”

The pipeline is part of a plan to expand the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline system that ships Alberta crude to the company’s Burrard Inlet oil terminal by building a second, larger line that would run beside the existing pipe most of the way, but diverting through farms like Smith’s to avoid built-up residential areas.

Smith and his neighbours are fighting the proposal, warning a pipeline breach would be catastrophic.

“It isn’t a question about if there is a spill, it’s when there is a spill,” Smith says.

He thinks he and his neighbours have a reasonable chance of blocking the proposal based on the environmental impact, but that will only move the problem to another community because Kinder Morgan will shift the line elsewhere.

He believes the pipeline should not be built at all.

“The people at each end of the pipeline are making money, but in between [there are few benefits for B.C.]” he says.

“I really feel it is not a good business plan.”

The 38-year-old married father of two grew up here and still lives on the 9100 block of 222 Street near Fort Langley, in a new house near his parents’ red brick home.

He says he didn’t learn the much-discussed pipeline might be running through his backyard until this August.

“We’re not in the room,” Smith says.

“We’re not part of the conversation. And we were outraged.”

Smith organized a Nov. 7 public community meeting on the pipeline that drew 100 people.

At the meeting, Eoin Madden of Western Canada Wilderness Committee showed photos of the Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and said Canada needs to follow the German lead and develop more wind, water and solar energy sources.

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, whose riding includes Kinder Morgan’s oil terminal, said a telephone poll of his constituents found 75 per cent opposed the twinning of the pipeline.

Stewart recently attended a National Energy Board public information session on the twinned pipeline in Edmonton.

Nine such sessions were scheduled for the Lower Mainland, but he said they have all been cancelled.

“They said too many people are interested in B.C.,” he said.

Stewart will be setting up a website letbcdecide.ca to provide information about the pipeline plans.

He expects Kinder Morgan to file a formal proposal to twin the pipeline on Dec, 16, and that will include the exact route it wishes to use.

Liz McDowell of Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) said the pipeline will create no more than 50 to 70 permanent jobs in B.C., and contribute an average of $26.5 million in taxes each year to  provincial and local governments.

“The likelihood of an incident involving the pipeline is low,” she said.

“If there is one, though, the consequences are catastrophic.”

McDowell said the impact of pipelines on property values can be considerable.

Directly affected properties could see their values drop 10 to 40 per cent.

“If your property relies on well water, the devaluation is likely permanent,” she said.

An online statement about the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project says if the regulatory application process is successful, construction of the new pipeline could begin as early as 2016.

“We recognize that building and operating infrastructure such as pipelines impact many along the route, and we respect our neighbors and the communities where we operate,” the statement says.

“We are proud of our extensive history, demonstrated commitment to safe and reliable operations, and relationships with all who are affected by our business.”

There will be a chance to hear from Kinder Morgan locally next week.

Greg Toth, senior director of Kinder Morgan, will present a progress report on the project to the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce November dinner meeting.

It takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Cascades Convention Centre. Cost for chamber members is $35 and for non-members $50, and reservations are required. To reserve a ticket, call 604-530-6656.

Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and the presentation will take place afterwards.

With files from Frank Bucholtz

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