With all the attention on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline between Edmonton and Kitimat, little notice seems to be taken hereabouts of another huge project that would run right through Kamloops.
My fellow columnist Rafe Mair goes apoplectic about Enbridge, calling it a disaster waiting to happen.
"Leaks and spills from the tar sands to the coast and thereafter, down the coast are inevitable and the consequences will be catastrophes," Rafe frothed in one of his recent entries.
"And remember, no one is going to stop the pipelines and tankers after a disaster — they will continue to run as if nothing had happened!"
Here in the Tournament Capital, we don't have a coastline to worry about, but we do have a river along which a pipeline already runs. The Trans Mountain pipeline was built in 1953 to move both crude and refined oil from Edmonton to Burnaby and Washington state. Kamloops is one of the terminals.
The exact route is, technically, a secret, lest a terrorist or saboteur be tempted to blow it up. Mind you, all a terrorist would have to do is drive up Westsyde Road and watch for the bright yellow markers every few hundred yards that announce the pipeline's location.
In some places, the line runs a pebble's throw from the North Thompson River, so close that in at least one spot, thousands of tons of rock were dumped to prevent the wandering river from undermining the pipes.
I'm not about to push the panic button on the Trans Mountain line, which is now owned by Kinder Morgan. It's not a disaster waiting to happen, though it does spring leaks every now and then.
Indeed, judging from personal experience with field staff, Kinder Morgan is a responsible company that communicates well with landowners — of which yours truly is one — and responds quickly to their concerns.
There are hundreds more all along the way. The pipeline — much like rail lines — enjoys a 30-metre right of way through the private properties in which it's buried, and on that strip, Kinder Morgan is the law. You can't dig a trench, put in a fence post, or do much of anything that changes your own land on top of that pipeline without KM giving the OK. The whup-whup-whup of a helicopter blade as the company checks its right of way is a familiar sound to landowners.
With Enbridge facing major opposition from environmentalists, First Nations and some politicians, Kinder Morgan's plan for expansion of Trans Mountain is gaining steam.
A couple of weeks ago, KM Canada president Ian Anderson announced plans for more than doubling the pipeline at a cost of $5 billion. It will add 550,000 barrels a day of capacity for carrying oil sands crude to the Coast. That's much more ambitious than the original plan announced just a few months ago.
Every landowner along the route is going to have heavy equipment digging through hay fields, pastures, back yards, driveways, roadways and fences in a highway-sized construction zone for months. Noxious weeds will take to the bare-ground strip like cars to the Autobahn.
Even assuming the company will restore it all to something resembling what it was before, the project will change the lives of a lot of people right here in Kamloops and all down the pipe for years to come.