Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Highway, (tarsands) Pipeline Route from Houston to Kitimat (BC)

Connector route roughed out

The sections marked in red show where logging roads already exist. The blue is the “to-do’ part of the proposed Connector.

By Ryan Calvery

Jul 04 2007

Although a definitive right of way has never been carved out for a Houston-Kitimat road link, one resident has mapped out a plan that involves private investment.

Victor Maskulak worked in the forest industry in Northwest BC for 40 years. And until his recent retirement, he was the woods manager for West Fraser’s Eurocan operation.

In this position Maskulak covered nearly every aspect of the company, including roads.

Using his knowledge, Maskulak originally presented his right of way plan to companies looking at establishing pipelines to Kitimat.

But he believes it would work well as a joint highway venture as well.

“I think there should be a partnership,” Maskulak told the Sentinel, “One of those private-public partnerships the government talks about.”

The current driving distance between Kitimat and Houston via Hwy 37S and Hwy 16 is 327 km. But his proposed “Coast Connector” route is only 171 km long.

And more than half of the route already exists in the form of utility roads, Maskulak pointed out - from the Kitimat side the road begins where the power lines cross Hwy 37S.

In addition to upgrading the existing roads, a significant portion of Connector would need to be built straight through a glacial section of the Coast Mountains.

But Maskulak has a solution to that - tunnelling. “The idea is to get Enbridge, Pembina or Kitimat LNG and the government together to build a tunnel,” he explained. “The only way this is going to work is with the pipelines.”

Maskulak’s route includes the drilling of two tunnels - one 3.8 km long and another that would bore through 8.3 km of mountain.

The tunnelling would significantly reduce any likelihood of an avalanche or landslide severing the link and it would ensure that transport trucks could navigate along the Coast Connector, Maskulak said.

And these transport trucks would also be a strong economic driver for the proposed route as Kitimat is looking at developing a break bulk port.

“You need an economic catalyst,” Maskulak pointed out. “There has to be economic benefit.”

Consequently, he added he is eagerly awaiting the release of the final phases of the Kitimat port feasibility study, due out this September.

These will specifically study certain companies and industries that would benefit from the port. The actual layout of the port itself will also be analyzed.

Despite the tunnels, Maskulak admitted the climbs involved would still be a concern to many, including trucking companies. “The important thing is the height of land issue.”

The highest point along Maskulak’s proposed route is through an area he refers to as Morice Pass, just east of the tunnels and 3,600 feet above sea level.

It would be a fairly steep incline for vehicles heading west, Maskulak conceded.

But he concluded that this route is only notional and all aspects of a route linking Houston and Kitimat should be studied.

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