A group of Secwepemc protesters intent on permanently camping along the Thompson River to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning project are not in the way of a nearby worksite, according to a company spokesperson.
The camp was established last Saturday on a beach just west of Domtar off Mission Flats Road, with approximately 20 people, who cite concerns for the land, water and salmon populations for wanting the pipeline stopped.
Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell said to date there has been no obstruction from the protesters of the worksite, located where the Mission Flats public beach parking lot was — about 450 metres south of the encampment.
This month, the Crown corporation plans to twin the portion of its oil pipeline that runs underneath the Thompson River by drilling below the riverbed — and the protesters.
Hounsell said there is no safety concern regarding the protesters being nearby as they are not located inside the fencing that surrounds the worksite, which is the entire area workers need to complete the river crossing.
“If there was any risk, we would have the area fenced off," Hounsell said.
The Mission Flats worksite is the entry point for the piece of the new pipeline, which will be pulled through to the north side of the river, all the way to the Suncor Energy facility and Ord Road to tie in to the ongoing expansion.
A spokesperson for the protesters, Miranda Dick, told KTW earlier this week they are prepared to do “everything” to stop the pipeline twinning project, adding that they are “not yet” disrupting work.
Asked if it’s a concern the protesters have established the permanent camp, Hounsell said the company respects “peaceful, lawful expressions of opinions.”
“As long as there’s no obstruction to our worksite or impacts in terms of safety or concerns from that perspective, people have every right to express their opinions,” she added.
Trans Mountain has a B.C. Supreme Court injunction prohibiting the obstruction of access to Trans Mountain's worksites.
While no obstruction has occurred, when it has in the past, the process has been for Trans Mountain to call police, Hounsell said.
That happened in early September when a Secwepemc woman affiliated with this encampment protest chained herself to a Trans Mountain worksite near the Kamloops Airport. She was charged, released and had to attend court in Vancouver.
On Sept. 30, RCMP also arrested a Merritt woman who refused to leave a Trans Mountain worksite near Hope after parking her vehicle in a manner that prevented workers from conducting operations. She was released at the scene with charges pending.
Hounsell said she has not had any direct contact with Kamloops RCMP regarding the Mission Flats encampment but is “sure they’re very much aware of it.”
KTW is awaiting a reply from Kamloops RCMP and bylaw services.
As for the concerns of protesters, Hounsell said the drilling process is used specifically to have as little impact on the river as possible, and noted the company’s preventative maintenance and spill management procedures.
The river crossing process is underway, but there’s no timeline for completion, Hounsell said.
— with a file from Black Press