Should politicians visit Alouette pipe?

It’s been sitting there for two years, it’s huge intake mouth still poised to start slurping water from the North Alouette River to water thirsty berry fields.

While Golden Eagle Group’s installation of the pipe without a water licence almost two years ago has been the subject of a several-month investigation by the provincial government and a concern of environmentalists, it hasn’t been compelling enough to draw personal inspection by politicians who represent the area.

MP Randy Kamp has yet to visit the site.

The federal politician meets Maple Ridge council this month to explain Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s response to a fish kill reported in May 2009. Golden Eagle Group denies any connection between the death of the fish and the installation of the pipe.

Kamp said Wednesday that the pipe was the subject of a provincial investigation and that he hasn’t been to the location where it runs across the dike and dips into the North Alouette River.

That location is reached by a half-hour walk on the dike, east of Neaves Road.

“I’ve certainly seen pictures of it, so I think I know what it looks like and roughly where it is.”

Marc Dalton, Liberal MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission, also hasn’t visited the location, although neither the intake nor the location of the fish kill is in his riding.

“My understanding is that the DFO went there and took pictures of the area, as far as I understand,” Dalton said.

“I didn’t think it’s necessary for me to actually walk to the site when it’s not in operation right now.”

Neither has Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, who led council recently to write to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea demanding answers about the investigation.

She eventually plans on visiting the site, but pointed out if the dead fish are no longer around; she wouldn’t know what she was looking at.

“I can still advocate for it without seeing it.”

She said council assumed the incident was being investigated, but after almost two years with no progress or answers about what caused the fish kill, or an explanation of government response to the incident, Ashlie said she doesn’t want the issue to disappear and is expecting to be informed when Kamp talks to council.

“This isn’t a no-answer situation anymore,” she said.

Ministries have been cut back so that there’s not enough manpower for them to do their jobs, she said, adding whatever agency first takes a complaint should be the one to ensure an investigation is started.

“I don’t think it’s the citizen’s responsibility to work the system until something happens. If [activist] Jack Emberly had just gone away, I wonder if we would have heard anything?”

The location of the fish kill, however, does fall within the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding represented by MLA Michael Sather, who’s been to the site several times.

“It’s a natural for me to go and look at the site. I don’t think a photo really shows you the whole scope of the project.”

He’s also wondering why there has yet to be any decision from the Attorney General’s department on whether charges should be laid over the installation of the pipe. It’s possible the department could explain if a special interest group inquired about the case, he added.

The issue has now been discussed by both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows councils, with the latter also agreeing Tuesday to write a letter to the fisheries minister.

Pitt Meadows director of development services Kim Grout told council Tuesday that the fish kill happened upstream of the water intake and within the borders of Maple Ridge.

But Emberly, who found the fish, said they were downstream of the pipe, about a kilometre east of Neaves Road, in Pitt Meadows.

“How would she have any idea where it was? She has no idea. That’s bizarre.”

But he agrees that politicians don’t have to visit a site to advocate for it.

“As long as you understand the issues and concerns.”

He credited Sather and Ashlie for keeping the issue alive, adding that Ashlie was the only politician who’s trying to bring justice to the watershed and that Maple Ridge council was showing leadership.

“I have no understanding why that pipe wasn’t removed by Pitt Meadows.”