Fortis B.C. hopes to minimize disruption to the Squamish Estuary in its effort to deliver natural gas to the proposed Woodfibre liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility, a company official said this week.
But Carol Greaves stopped short of promising that an expanded pipeline would follow the route of the existing one that traverses the estuary before crossing the Squamish River, as that decision hinges on the location of a compressor station that's required as part of the project.
During the recent 30-day comment period on the proposed Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project, Squamish Streamkeepers urged the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to require that the company avoid a second crossing of the estuary.
"It is our understanding that the proposed routing for a new pipeline crossing some distance north from the current pipeline crossing of the river is necessitated by the location of the Fortis property near Pioneer Way that might be used for a new compressor station," the Streamkeepers' submission states.
The Streamkeepers suggested the station be located in the Lower Mamquam area, near the Atlantic Power hydroelectric facility.
"This should be a superior site with respect to potential noise impacts of the facility," the group stated.
Greaves, Fortis B.C. community and First Nations relations manager, on Monday (Jan. 6) acknowledged that because Fortis B.C. owns a parcel of land near the CN Rail yards west of Queens Way, it is one of the three options under consideration as the location for the 15,000-horsepower compressor station.
"The pipeline routing is predicated on the location of the compressor station. We're going to do our very best to minimize the impacts to the estuary," Greaves said.
Streamkeepers president Jack Cooley said placing the station at the Pioneer Way site would likely necessitate a second crossing of the estuary, a sensitive intertidal zone used by both migrant birds and aquatic species. Putting the station further south would make it easier to use the existing route, he said.
"It just seems like a bad idea to put another crossing right through the estuary," Cooley said.
Streamkeeper Eric Andersen, who wrote the group's submission to the EAO, said Fortis purchased the Pioneer Way site in the 1990s. While it might have been the ideal location for such a facility at the time, it's less desirable now because of the recent construction of more homes and townhomes in nearby North Yards.
"During the [Nov. 30] open house, the Fortis people were very interested in soliciting input generally and they themselves said that since that site was purchased in the Business Park, the area has changed and that they may be open to changing the location of the compressor," Andersen said.
"There are some noise issues and that's one reason why it probably shouldn't be located near a residential area," he said, adding that air-quality impacts might also be a concern.
Greaves said other siting options for the compressor station are being explored, but couldn't provide their locations because they're subject to talks with private landowners and First Nations consultation.
It's still possible that the route of the pipeline will run parallel to the existing one, Greaves said.
"We're going to try to stay as close to our existing pipeline as possible," she said.
Others who provided comments to the EAO expressed dismay that the Eagle Mountain pipeline and the Woodfibre LNG export facility weren't being treated as one proposal.
The Future of Howe Sound Society wrote that the two should be dealt with cumulatively "in order to understand and comment on the combined impacts to the environment and economy of [Howe Sound]."
"They are distinct projects," he said. "Of course, the pipeline will not be built unless the LNG plant is built, but in my opinion it's good from a public input point of view to have separate processes, which allows us to better target our concerns or input."
Greaves said while the two are separate projects, the expanded pipeline will not go ahead unless the Woodfibre LNG plant is built.
"If everything goes through, we're not expecting a certificate until well into 2015," she said.
Federal officials are expected to decide this month whether the Woodfibre LNG proposal - which would see an LNG conversion, storage and export facility built on the site of the old Woodfibre pulp mill -should undergo a full federal environmental review or whether portions of the provincial review can be substituted. The comment period on that question closed this week. Officials are required to seek public input on the proposal sometime after the actual review is underway.