A six-figure investment in Merritt is certain as long the Trans Mountain expansion project is too.
Pipeline company Kinder Morgan will invest $420,000 in Merritt’s infrastructure as a result of the city signing off on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Thursday.
The money comes from Kinder Morgan’s Community Benefits Program and is intended to invest in communities along the pipeline route while offsetting the effects of expansion.
The Community Benefits Program provides funds in three areas — environmental stewardship, infrastructure improvements and community programs, and education and training opportunities.
Most of Merritt’s funding won’t be coming as a cheque because the company intends to use the majority of the $420,000 to pave three kilometres of trails for the city.
“It’s essentially in-kind work that Kinder Morgan will do,” City of Merritt financial services manager Ken Ostraat said.
These trails could be established adjacent to Voght Street as well as at the airport.
“We really want to try and improve our trail system here in Merritt,” Ostraat said.
Another $50,000 from Kinder Morgan will be put toward a scholarship for Merritt students interested in the trades, he said.
“We want to ensure the communities we operate in are recognized for impacts of project construction,” Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said in a press release. “Providing direct investment to our pipeline communities is part of our commitment to maximizing benefits of the expansion. With this agreement, we will add to the investment we are making locally to provide improvements to community infrastructure and help make local education and training programs accessible for the people who live and work in Merritt.”
In Merritt, the pipeline is expected to cross under a portion of the airport’s runway, likely causing some disturbance in airport operations, Ostraat said.
Ostraat said the decision to invest in trails came about because Kinder Morgan will have workers and equipment in town during pipeline construction anyway, which they’re prepared to use for a community project.
With Merritt Mayor Neil Menard’s signature, Kinder Morgan now has 11 MOUs signed along the pipeline route from Strathcona Country, Alta. to Hope.
Thursday’s announcement was part of signings with various other Interior communities to the tune of $2.5 million pending the project’s approval.
The TNRD signed off, as did Kamloops, Clearwater and Valemount.
Kamloops received $700,000 while Clearwater received $390,000 and Valemount was given $185,000.
Four electoral areas in the TNRD split $845,000 from Kinder Morgan, with Blue River and Avola receiving the lion’s share of $350,000.
The expansion project still needs approval from the National Energy Board and the federal government before construction can begin in 2016.