David Gray says he feels a bit like Don Quixote sometimes after spending years trying to avoid having the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion cross his Langley property.
“The real issue is, to put it down, they have to knock down a huge swath of land down on our property,” Gray said.
Since the expansion was announced in 2013, he’s been opposed because of the impact it will have on his land.
“We have had this hanging over our head for seven years,” Gray said.
Gray said he’s lost his bid to stop the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) from moving ahead on his property, and now he will lose the woods where he and his wife walk every day.
“I have stuck with the process, gone through it all,” he said.
Gray lives southeast of Fort Langley, where the pipeline cuts across the ridges above Glen Valley and the Salmon River floodplain.
The original pipeline runs through his five-acre property. Built in the 1950s, its presence is visible because of a lack of trees – there’s just grass and moss above the original route.
The new pipeline will go in along that same alignment, but to get in the heavy equipment and dig a trench for the expansion, Gray has been told most of the trees on the back portion of his property will come down.
A series of paths wind between the trees, where Gray and his wife, retirees, walk every day.
He doesn’t want to lose the woods, but at this point he’s resigned to it. He has consulted a lawyer and heard that there’s basically no chance of a successful legal challenge.
“The federal government has a machine place,” said Gray. “It’s steamrollering through anyone with a different point of view.”
Gray said he asked the CER to have the pipeline go south around his property, through a turf farm, where there would be no trees to cut down, or to be tunnelled under it.
Trans Mountain won’t change the route, but has said they will have the land replanted.
The pipeline, which was bought by the federal government in 2018 from its previous owner, Kinder Morgan does have to compensate landowners.
“Where Trans Mountain does acquire land rights for the expansion project, landowners are entitled to compensation for the lands used, both for short-term construction and permanent easement, in addition to damages or inconvenience,” the company’s website says. “This compensation is in addition to our legal requirement and corporate commitment to minimize damages and restore lands as far as practicable to pre-construction conditions.”
Gray doesn’t think restoration will mean much to him.
“I might, if I’m lucky, have 10 years in me,” said Gray. “It takes 25 years to grow back.”
He’s also to be compensated financially, but the trees – alders and cottonwoods – aren’t financially valuable.
“But that’s not what the value of this place is to us,” he said.
Construction of some sections of the pipeline and its infrastructure around Surrey and Abbotsford began in 2020, and construction in Langley is expected to begin sometime in 2021.