Even if the Trans Mountain Pipeline twinning project goes ahead, residents along a 40-kilometre stretch of the North Thompson River won't see any major excavation.
That means property owners, for the most part, wouldn't have to worry about the impact of excavation and construction passing through their land.
The reason for that anomaly in what would be a massive construction project — Kinder Morgan Canada is prepared to invest $5.4 billion if it wins National Energy Board approval — dates back more than 50 years.
In 1957, Trans Mountain Pipeline added a second line to its system completed four years earlier, said Greg Toth, project director of the Trans Mountain expansion project. The line runs between Darfield, north of Barriere, and Black Pines, north of Kamloops.
From 1957 to 1985, both lines flowed in parallel. In 1985, Trans Mountain started sending refined products — gasoline and diesel — into Kamloops. They deactivated the 30-inch pipe and used only the 24-inch pipe. In 2003, they reactivated the 30-inch pipe and took the 24-inch out of service as part of a capacity upgrade, a minor expansion of the system.
That second, 30-inch is the one that remains in operation today. The original 24-inch pipeline, known as the Legacy Line, hasn't been used in a decade, but it will be brought back into service if the expansion project proceeds.
"The 36-inch section of pipe from Darfield to Black Pines has sufficient capacity," Toth said.
Even with the expanded scope of the twinning — two weeks ago, Kinder Morgan Canada upgraded its plans to two 36-inch lines instead of two 32-inch lines — that part of the proposal remains unchanged.
"The combination of the 24- and 30-inch (pipes) will give the necessary capacity for the 890,000-barrel configuration," Toth said.
The legacy line has a capacity of 350,000 barrels per day while the 1957 pipeline can handle 540,000 barrels, he noted.
The age of the system is not at issue; pipelines can operate indefinitely as long as they're properly inspected and maintained, Toth said.
"The pipeline steel does not degrade. The line is not susceptible to internal corrosion."
How do two larger pipes feed into two smaller ones, and vice-versa?
Intermediate pump stations, one at either end of the section in Darfield and Black Pines, would meet the requirements of the hydraulic configuration, Toth said.
Reactivation will involve a number of activities, including running trials to inspect the old pipeline. These will require what Toth described as "discrete excavations," excavating in specific, targeted areas so the pipe can be thoroughly inspected.
"We're confident that the line will be safe to operate."
Kinder Morgan has so far held 37 public information sessions on the proposed expansion. The next stage of public consultations, expected to take place by spring, will focus on specific areas along the route, such as Kamloops.
Here, a key concern revolves around a potential pipeline diversion around Westsyde — which was rural when the pipeline was built — through Lac Du Bois Provincial Park. A Black Pines pumping station could serve that function.
"The next stage is to visualize the problem — specifically a routing through Kamloops. Then we'll go out and look for feedback."
Cindy Merkosky, who lives north of Black Pines, is glad to know there wouldn't be major disruption in her area, but she has concerns about the flow of oil overall.
"This is all consumer driven, so we have to look at what we're buying and consuming," Merkosky said. "That's why the whole planet is in trouble."
There are also local concerns about moving more of the pipeline into a park that also serves as a watershed, she noted.
Penny Powers, a Black Pines resident, shares Merkosky's local and global concerns.
"This is a very narrow place between the hills and the river," she said. "We're worried about them digging it up. Leaks always happen. It would get into the North Thompson River. It would contaminate wells."