The B.C. government passed legislation that changes the boundaries of Finn Creek Provincial Park last Thursday, to make way for the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline even though the province has yet to give its approval to the controversial project.
In its pipeline expansion allocation Kinder Morgan requested the province redraw the boundaries of four provincial parks to facilitate pipeline construction.
Last week B.C. changed the boundaries of Finn Creek Provincial Park to make way for the pipeline that is currently undergoing review with the federal National Energy Board. The NEB’s final recommendation is expected by May 20.
“This pipeline project clearly threatens the values that this park was established to protect,” Peter Wood with the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), said. “It should never have been allowed to proceed this far, let alone be approved. Allowing industrial activity in an ecologically sensitive area like Finn Creek Park runs counter to the government’s mandate of protecting these places.”
Finn Creek Provincial Park is located along the North Thompson River, an area BC Parks says is rich in ecological diversity, with local grizzly and moose populations, and provides spawning habitat for bull trout, Coho and Chinook salmon.
The province appears to be making way for the pipeline even though the B.C. Ministry of Environment found the project did not meet conditions set out by the province in 2012. The B.C. Ministry of Environment did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
Update: The B.C. Ministry of Environment released a statement to DeSmog Canada saying, "this proposed boundary adjustment would not be brought into force unless and until the project is approved by the National Energy Board, the Province is satisfied its five conditions have been met, and the Province has issued an environmental assessment certificate. Until such time, this boundary adjustment does not permit any form of construction of the proposed pipeline."
Wood asked, "why would they proactively legislate changes to open the park to the pipeline before the NEB has even arrived at a decision?" Even though the proposed changes would only affect a small portion of the park, roughly 2.43 hectares according to the Ministry of Environment, "in principle, it doesn't make sense," Wood said.
"My understanding is that the park protects wild salmon, grizzly bears and moose. I haven't seen the documents related to how these values will be affected," Wood said. "But I think the bigger concern is that this major change was buried in a 'miscellaneous statutes' omnibus bill."
"If it's no big deal, why not be transparent and tell the public that they are changing the park to accommodate the Kinder Morgan pipeline?"
In August 2015 over 30 groups and individuals, including CPAWS, publicly withdrew from the Kinder Morgan review process, citing a lack of transparency, balance and accountability in the proceedings.
Wood said the government’s decision to redraw provincial parkland boundaries in favour of the pipeline is concerning.
“Why is the B.C. Government proceeding as if this pipeline project is a done deal?” he said.
“It’s inappropriate for the province to be allocating resources to opening up our parks for a pipeline, let alone one that may never be approved.”
“This is particularly shocking given the high levels of opposition from First Nations and the general public.”
Kinder Morgan’s submission to the province requests parkland boundaries also be altered in the North Thomson River Provincial Park, Lac Du Bois Grasslands Protected Area and Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park.
This article was updated May 17, 2016 to include comment from the Ministry of Environment and additional comment from Peter Wood.
Image: Yoho National Park in B.C. via Pigeonsgross/Instagram