Why It May Be Back to Square One for Justin Trudeau's Bitumen Pipeline


The severe storms and floods that hit British Columbia last week, like the storms that are hammering Nova Scotia and Newfoundland today, are bringing into question the engineering standards being used for major infrastructure in Canada - pipelines in particular.

In a nutshell, heavy flooding plays Hell with oil and gas pipelines.  To nature, a pipeline is about as robust as a wet noodle.

Romilly Cavanaugh stood at the edge of the Coquihalla River north of Hope, watching big trees snap off the bank like blades of grass in a lawn mower. Some of those not swept away held dead fish in their branches three metres off the ground — a reminder of what came before.

Cavanaugh and her fellow engineers had been sent into the chaos for a sole purpose: to watch the Trans Mountain pipeline through the flood of 1995.

Over that week they held vigil in torrential rain because the pipe, usually buried in a thick blanket of soil and rock, was bare and moving up and down in the river “like a piece of cooked spaghetti.”

That was new to her. “You don’t expect metal structures to be moving.”

Trans Mountain has said its pipeline expansion now being constructed is designed to withstand a 10-per-cent increase in flood activity to account for climate change. Research suggests that will likely be insufficient.

The Trans Mountain pipeline that is being twinned traverses one of the country’s main drainage basins — and flooding hotspots — in the Fraser-Lower Mainland region.

The Coquihalla and Coldwater rivers, which Trans Mountain follows, “are the most dangerous spots for a potential spill from a flood like this,” said Cavanaugh.

It seems Justin Trudeau has a mess on his hands. He decided to buy TMX when the private sector wouldn't touch it.  He got caught holding the bag when the atmospheric river, what Environment Canada warns will be the first in a "parade of storms" that are coming, hit the Fraser Valley.

Suddenly that 10-per-cent margin engineered into Mr. Trudeau's spanking new pipeline doesn't sound very assuring.


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