By Spencer Hall, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Valemount mayor Owen Torgerson says village staff are currently assessing general infrastructure for damages caused by the construction of the Trans Mountain expansion project.
Earlier this spring, Torgerson, Simpcw First Nation Chief George Lampreau, and Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell told CBC News their communities were “in the early stages” of assessing how much they’d bill Trans Mountain in compensation for road repairs to address damage they claim was caused by trucks repeatedly traveling through their communities during construction of the crown corporation’s pipeline expansion project.
When asked about specific damage in Valemount, Torgerson said the village is looking at damages to roads and general infrastructure that go beyond normal wear and tear.
“You can see more deterioration on the inside corners of some of our intersections where a larger truck may not negotiate the entire turn while still on the pavement,” Torgerson said, adding the Village has noticed more alligatoring—a cracking of pavement sometimes caused by heavy vehicles—on its portion of Ash Street versus the province’s portion, as well as on the road turning into Valemount’s sewage treatment plant.
Valemount CAO Eric Depenau said Trans Mountain staff would often travel to the sewage plant to drop off bulk sewage and bulk water stations to access water.
“On those roads from the highway into those services are areas that the administration will be looking at more closely to see how they’re doing for life expectancy,” Depenau said.
Mayor Torgerson said the village will be involved in “ongoing conversations” with Trans Mountain and the Ministry of Transportation, noting that a lot of degradation has occurred along the Ministry’s right-of-way north of 17th Avenue.
Depenau said from the Village’s understanding, Trans Mountain has a regulatory obligation to return roads to their pre-existing condition. He said while the village is concerned about municipal infrastructure, it would also like to bring attention to the impacts on provincial infrastructure.
“We also want to ensure that folks are paying attention because we all use them each and every day, and those in Victoria might be less familiar with some of the damage that has potentially been caused by that increased volume. It’s a concern for both our own road network and potentially, those of other jurisdictions,” Depenau said.
Torgerson said he’s noticed more degradation throughout the North Thompson that goes beyond normal wear and tear, particularly under bridges.
“You’ll get a rut in the pavement prior to the concrete and that causes a bit of a safety concern for the traveling public, which will impact our first responders. It just snowballs,” Torgerson said.
He said if Trans Mountain doesn’t do what is required of them by the Canada Energy Regulator, the Village will likely have to apply for intervener status and speak with the crown corporation directly, but Torgerson hopes it won’t come to that.
“We’re hoping that a good community partner like Trans Mountain will be responsive to local concerns.”