by Andru McCracken
The massive regulatory procedure that determines the exact placement of the Transmountain pipeline from Valemount to Blue River has come to an end. As of Monday at 4 pm, all local stakeholders and landowners who deemed themselves directly affected by the route of the pipeline and the method of construction have said they were satisfied with arrangements made by the company.
That led to the cancellation of public hearings scheduled at a local hotel this week.
James Stevenson, a communications officer with the National Energy Board (NEB) described the process.
“It’s very much like a civil suit,” he said. “A lot of them are resolved before the hearing.”
Stevenson said the process is in place so that landowners can have a voice.
He said that landowners and the pipeline company are typically able to come up with good solutions.
“The prevailing themes is trees,” said James Stevenson, “Everybody wants them to cut down as few trees as possible.”
Stevenson said the National Energy Board prefers that the company and landowners find a solution on their own. He said that massive process starts with the company handing every affected landowner a document. Landowners are then able to file a statement of opposition, and if disputes aren’t resolved between the pipeline company and landowner (or other stakeholder) it results in a public hearing.
For segment 3 of the pipeline, the part of the pipeline that goes near Valemount, close to the existing pipeline, no public hearings will be required.
According to Ali Hounsell, Spokesperson, Trans Mountain Expansion Project, eleven landowners initially objected to the detailed route planned for the Valemount area.
“Between the time the Valemount hearings were announced and the date they were to be held, Trans Mountain and the 11 objecting landowners were able to reach voluntary agreements for the land rights needed for the Project, with the assistance of NEB Alternative Dispute Resolution professionals,” he said.
The NEB hearings in Valemount were focused on Spread 3 of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, which includes 285 parcels of land, of which 81 are private and 204 are Crown parcels.
Housnell wouldn’t comment on the agreement Trans Mountain reached with landowners, but their filed statements of opposition were available online. Many landowners worried about trees and the ability to build new buildings in areas that would become pipeline right of way. For example, Intrawest, the parent company of Canadian Mountain Holidays which operates the Valemount Lodge was concerned about the potential disruption to their heli-ski guests.
“The details of the agreements are not public, but what we can say is, the primary concern for Intrawest was the timing of construction, and Trans Mountain has committed to construct outside their busy season,” said Hounsell.