There’s growing concern about “significant projected cuts” through a section of old trees in Fraser Height’s North Slope Buffer Park to make way for the Trans Mountain pipeline, says a geographer who recently organized a virtual town hall meeting on the subject that drew 87 registrants, with about two-thirds of the participants hailing from Surrey.
Sarah Ross, who set up that meeting, said she was walking through the park in February when she spotted a surveyor’s path, and tape marking the pipeline right-of-way along with stakes in the ground.
As far as the number of trees expected to be lost to this, Ross said she’s been trying to figure that out since May.
“It’s 1.3 linear kilometres of trees and the cut width is between 25 and 50 metres wide,” she told the Now-Leader. “What that amounts to is six, seven acres of trees. That’s just the one site, you know there’s several other sites in the area that they’re also clearing.”
The Edmonton-to-Burnaby oil pipeline will be routed alongside South Fraser Perimeter Road in the Fraser Heights area, before crossing under the river north to Coquitlam, on a path just east of Port Mann Bridge. The Surrey section of the “twinned” pipeline will be 11.5 kilometres in length. A 2020 press release indicated the builder has agreed to contribute $500,000 toward enhancing the local trail network in Fraser Heights.
“There’s definitely some fierce opposition, and there’s a lot to be lost,” Ross said.
It’s “conceivable,” however, that the contractor could drill horizontally, leaving the forest intact. “I think the bigger issue really is the whole world is marching toward the end of fossil fuel development.”
“There’s frustration that local residents don’t have a say,” Ross said. “The truth is the City of Surrey doesn’t have a say, either, and I mean they had their lawyers opposing Trans Mountain’s right to enter the land because the agreements weren’t finalized.”
She noted that Coquitlam negotiated a $1.4 million community agreement while Surrey’s compensation was “only” $500,000.
“I think Surrey got a bad deal,” she said. “And now they’re cutting down the forest, the park. It doesn’t make sense.”
Kevin Purton, a long-time resident of Fraser Heights who lives near the park, is a founding member of Surrey Environmental Partners.
“There’s numerous old trees through there, cedar, fir and hemlock,” he said of the affected area, “and some just beautiful ancient maple trees as well, like I’m talking over 100 feet high.”
“They’re just immense things.”
Purton, like Ross, would like to see the project contractor bore under the trees if possible.
As for the $500,000, Purton said he doesn’t care if the City of Surrey got $1 million or more.
“Whatever money, it doesn’t make up for the loss of 100 to 130-year-old trees. They’re sort of paying off the city so they can do their devastating work through the area.”
– with file from Tom Zillich