By Andru McCracken
The president of Trans Mountain, Ian Anderson made himself available to residents of Blue River last week to answer questions they had about the pipeline expansion but after the call was over, residents were left with as many questions as ever. One resident called the combination of COVID-19, the presence of the
Tiny House Warriors, a dearth of tourism, and the lack of economic activity from the pipeline a nightmare.
The telephone call took place at 6:30 pm on Thursday, August 20 and began with a lengthy introduction highlighting the company’s 65-year relationship with the tiny community.
The first question was whether or not Trans Mountain had been asking workers to steer clear of the community because of safety concerns posed by Tiny House Warriors who have been protesting and camped in the area for two years.
“We have heard Blue River was a security risk because of protests here. [Were] people told to stay away from here?” asked a resident named Carolyn.
Anderson was unequivocal, “We are not avoiding Blue River. We are not discouraging people from working there, living there or accessing services there.”
He went further. “We are encouraging workers and contractors to do everything they can to be in Blue River.”
A resident named Don said he observes otherwise. His home faces the pump station.
“With the present construction of the pump station, I’m noticing two baby busses bringing workers into the station in the morning. Same two busses headed back out of town [at night]. Why is local accommodation not being used for those people?” he asked.
Anderson said those workers are staying at the Valemount camp.
“It’s likely the nature of the workers, COVID…” he said. “I think that is likely a unique situation given the work going on on that site.”
He said as the work continues more and more workers will stay in accommodations in Blue River.
Michelle Humphreys who operates Bone Creek Resort said she’s well equipped to handle COVID restrictions.
“We can self contain, we’re not seeing any workers or anything from Trans Mountain,” she said.
Anderson said he knew of her business.
“We are well aware of your accommodation and the contractor is well aware, we will be promoting it to the workers. Some of it will be the decision of the workers, but it’s all being promoted for use as much as possible.”
After the meeting Humphrey was profoundly disappointed.
“I was left with the feeling Blue River is the sacrificial lamb for the pipeline and this is the best place for the Tiny House Warriors to be as they are out of sight, out of mind and protesting a [nonexistent] camp…”
She said that the warriors are allowed to bully residents and Crown Counsel will not proceed with charges against the protestors. She said Premier John Horgan’s encouraged residents to call the police when their rights are infringed or they feel unsafe, but nothing is coming of their complaints.
“Why are they bussing workers from Valemount to Blue River when we have accommodations here? This pipeline was supposed to be a boon to the town, now due to the pipeline and the Tiny House Warriors it is a nightmare. The Tiny House Warriors would not be here if it was not for the pipeline. We are stuck in the middle of COVID with very few tourists & no work force as promised, no camp jobs as promised……our future is looking pretty dim to me.”
Anderson reported having been in the community the week before where he stayed at the Mike Wiegele Resort. In order not to disturb operations at the resort,
Trans Mountain has committed to directionally drilling the pipeline underneath the entire resort.
“That limits any disruption in that entire area,” said Anderson.
But for all their work to limit disturbance to Mike Wiegele Resort, disturbance at the Blue River Campground is anything but minimized. The protest group has been camped there for two years, and routinely admonishes campers to leave, as previously reported in the Goat.
“We know Blue River is uniquely impacted by the protest activity. We are well aware there are many occurrences where that disruption has affected you and your community,” he said.
Anderson said the pipeline has the tools to ensure that protests don’t obstruct their work.
“Your situation is a bit different,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to support Blue River without taking on the authority of a policing authority. You have my word I will do what I can to advocate on your behalf to resolve the situation.”
Blue River camp?
He said the presence of the Tiny House Warriors will not impact the decision about whether a camp is built in Blue River but that a decision on whether to build the camp there is still being made.
“We will assess the need for the Blue River camp in the coming weeks, a couple months at most. It’s only going to be done after careful workforce planning.”
He said the company would try to maximize the benefit to the community.
Amy Deuling said clear communication would be better, than getting the run-around.
“Common courtesy would be to simply tell us what’s going on so we can plan accordingly. Another common courtesy would be to uphold the safety of our citizens, not just the workers, something Ian spoke of. The Tiny House Warriors are here because of Trans Mountain. No other reason. So why are we left to clean up this mess? It’s pretty disrespectful and disappointing if you ask me,” she said.