An alternate route for the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Project through the Nicola Valley was approved by the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) on July 19. 

This followed an application by Trans Mountain late last year for a variance that would change the pipeline’s already approved path for a new course, known as the West Alternate Route. 

The West Alternate Route was put forward as a more preferable route by the Coldwater Indian Band, who had raised concerns about the original route potentially causing damage to the Coldwater Reserve aquifer, the only source of drinking water for the community of approximately 320 people. 

“For us water is life,” said Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan at the time.

“We continue to do everything in our power to ensure our sole source of drinking water is protected from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”

For Spahan, this included joining with the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations, as well as a collection of Sto:lo nation bands and presenting their argument to the Federal Court of Appeal. This appeal was rejected, as was a subsequent appeal made to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Following a series of hearings by landowners, First Nations and local governments, the revised route was approved. 

We are pleased that the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) issued its decision to approve Trans Mountain’s variance application for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project route through the Coldwater Valley in B.C.” said a spokesperson for Trans Mountain. 

“We continue to engage with Coldwater and have productive conversations regarding our Expansion Project.”  

Although the West Alternate Route will bypass Coldwater’s water aquifer and alleviate the Band’s fears for their drinking water, some in the area have raised concerns about the environmental impact that the new route will have, as it adds roughly four kilometres to the route, and necessitates two separate crossings of the Coldwater River where none were needed before. 

In response to those concerns, Trans Mountain assured that they are doing all that they can to ensure minimal environmental impact. 

“As with every part of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, extensive work was undertaken to determine environmental impacts and mitigation measures to reduce those impacts,” said Trans Mountain.

“Our goal is always to protect the environment, have as little impact as possible and, where we do have an impact, ensure we return the land to its previous state.”

Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan did not respond to requests for comment on the West Alternate Route.