Plans that could see an increase of train traffic carrying crude through the Shuswap has further spurred local concerns for public safety and the environment.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley recently announced a deal to ship 20,000 barrels a day starting July, and up to 120,000 barrels per day by 2020. This would add to the steady increase in rail traffic Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz has noted over the past several years. It also adds to his concern.
“If something went wrong with a train in Sicamous or Salmon Arm for that matter, could you imagine the implications?” said Rysz. “I am not so sure we have the ability to look after one of these major incidents. An incident with a train that has contamination could effect an entire community. There is lots to consider. Bottom line, more rail traffic makes me concerned.”
A key issue Rysz has with heavy train traffic in the Shuswap is the proximity of trains carrying potential contaminants to the lakes and watersheds in the area.
“Rail traffic runs along all of our watersheds in this part of the country, and I am witnessing more and more rail cars hauling oil as well. And there are lots that haul fertilizers and so forth. So when these trains are running alongside Shuswap Lake and our watersheds, it becomes more of a concern,” Rysz says.
However, Rysz notes it is not only increasing rail traffic that concerns him.
“Since CP Rail has upped their traffic and now haul more oil, it has put a lot more pressure on truck traffic on the Trans-Canada,” Rysz says. “We don’t seem to get enough support from either the federal or provincial government to get the highway four-laned to accommodate truck traffic.
“There are more and more truck accidents every day because of how heavy the traffic is. There is pressure put on the trucking industry to compete – it’s a huge ripple effect, there are a lot of moving parts.”
Rysz adds municipalities have few options with the amount of commercial vehicle traffic passing through.
“We just deal with it, and though we are concerned and hope nothing happens within the community, that is kind of the only option,” he said.