Oil spill would ‘devastate’ sensitive species in Brunette River, advocates say

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
New Westminster Record

New West and Burnaby politicians toured the protected area with environmental advocates Tuesday morning

An ecologically sensitive river that separates New Westminster from Coquitlam is directly threatened by the proposed expansion of the TransMountain pipeline, local advocates say.

New Westminster Environmental Partners teamed up with the Wilderness Committee to take local politicians on a tour along Brunette River, which runs through Burnaby and between New West and Coquitlam.

Vic Leach with New West Environmental Partners feels few residents in the area are aware that the TransMountain pipeline expansion would run along the river.

The current pipeline does not run through the Brunette River area – the two would diverge in the area of Colony Farm in Coquitlam, which Peter McCartney, climate campaigner with Wilderness Committee, said is largely due to practicality.

That’s because the route of the existing pipeline cuts through dozens of private properties in Coquitlam and Burnaby, and laying another pipeline on the same route would present significantly more challenges.

“Unfortunately, some of the only spaces left in the city for a pipeline corridor are the most ecologically sensitive,” McCartney said.

The proposed pipeline route approaches the Brunette River at around the Eaglequest Golf Course in Coquitlam and runs along the river near Hume Park and into the Brunette River Conservation Area.

Members of the New West Environmental Partners said the conservation area was a North American pioneer in revitalizing a salmon habitat several decades ago, once thought irreversibly deteriorated through industrialization in the area.

Now, McCartney said the conservation area is home to some sensitive species of fish and riparian areas that filter sediment and pesticides that enter the river.

“The Brunette River is a key piece of the whole ecosystem here in the Lower Mainland,” he said.
“It’s ecologically sensitive with the species at risk that are here – the Nooksack dace, the cutthroat trout … For the Nooksack dace, this is the second-biggest population in all of Canada, and an oil spill here would be devastating.
“We can’t just allow these species to be driven to extinction. It’s not just morally wrong; it’s against the law.”

After the walk, Leach said one of his main concerns is the effect on trees in the area. McCartney said the project would likely require removal of dozens of trees because the pipeline runs along the Brunette conservation area in a relatively narrow space between the CN Rail tracks and Highway 1.

Along for the walk were New Westminster-Burnaby member of Parliament Peter Julian and Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, both of whom said the information presented Tuesday morning strengthened their resolve in opposing the pipeline expansion.

“[It] has been described as a twinning of a pipeline, but certainly in New West and Burnaby there’s no twinning of the pipeline. It’s an absolutely new line, cut through a real important ecological area,” Hurley said.

Julian, one of a handful of incumbent NDP MPs running for re-election in the upcoming federal election, won’t have a chance to bring the Brunette River concerns up in Parliament, which is out of session until after the fall election. However, he did say he will be making the pipeline an election issue.

“I’ve been raising it on the door steps, and people have been raising it on the door steps with me. One of the first questions I get [is] ‘you’re opposed to TransMountain, right?’ and I say yes.”

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