Farmers say snowmelt illustrates pipeline’s impact on crops

Photos show snow melting from land above pipeline quicker than surrounding areas.

Farmers say snowmelt along pipelines in the Fraser Valley illustrates the impact on growing conditions by the underground infrastructure.

Farmers say snowmelt along pipelines in the Fraser Valley illustrates the impact on growing conditions by the underground infrastructure.

A group of Fraser Valley farmers say the recent snowy weather has illustrated one of their chief concerns about the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline beneath their land.

Photos posted online by the Collaborative Group of Landowners Affected by Pipelines (CGLAP) show snow melting quicker along areas crossed by the Trans Mountain and Spectra pipelines.

The visual evidence of the pipeline’s effect on soil temperatures echoes concerns raised by CGLAP and studied by Tom Baumann, a UFV agriculture professor. Baumann – who owns land crossed by the Spectra pipeline and is a CGLAP member – studied the issue with his students in 2015 and found proximity to the pipeline correlated with significantly warmer soil temperatures 20 centimetres below the surface. A study by another pipeline company – TransCanada – came to similar conclusions in 2009.

Baumann said the pipes heat up from friction as material passes through it, warming the surrounding soil. That, Baumann says, makes farming plots of land tricky, as areas crossed by the pipeline ripen quicker. But because the pipeline often bisect plots of land at oblique angles, the warmer soil can lead to a portion of the harvest being over-ripe and less valuable.

“In that area, the crop is ripe earlier by weeks.”

In response to the concerns, Kinder Morgan says it will bury its new pipe 40 centimetres deeper than originally planned in Fraser Valley agricultural areas in order to enable tilling on agricultural land.

“In response to the feedback we have received, Trans Mountain will bury the new pipe deeper on agricultural lands in the Fraser Valley, where additional depth of cover is needed to enable farmers to practice deep tilling,” the company said in a statement. “Where deep tillage is practised, the pipeline will be buried to have a depth of cover of 1.2 metres.”

The company added: “Trans Mountain’s first responsibility is to construct the pipeline in a manner which minimizes impact and implement mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate impact to the extent practical. We are also responsible for damages to crops under the NEB Act, as well as under our agreements with landowners. And, in 60 years of operation we have not received a request for compensation related to pipeline operating temperature effects.”