Trans Mountain Pipeline is having trouble finding the owner of a small piece of Langley property it needs to build its oil pipeline expansion, because the registered owner of the land has been dead for almost a century.
James C. Kavanagh, who was born around 1850 and died in 1922, is the registered owner of two lots that are bisected by the Canadian National Railway tracks north of Walnut Grove.
The two lots – assessed at $9,000 for the larger and just $200 for the smaller by B.C. Assessment – include land needed for the right of way and for work sites for the pipeline expansion. Trans Mountain needs just 10 metres of land on the smaller lot for the actual right of way.
But before construction can begin, they have to notify landowners and gain their permission to cross their land. That’s proved difficult for a man who lived in the Vancouver area briefly and has been dead for 97 years.
To try to locate first Kavanagh, and later his descendents who might have inherited the land, Trans Mountain has embarked on a search through legal archives, and from Langley to California and Connecticut.
Born in Niagara Falls in 1850, Kavanagh was a businessman and financier who started out as a postmaster in Brandon, Manitoba, according to a report created for Trans Mountain.
He eventually became a hotelier in Winnipeg, moved to Vancouver by the 1910s, and in 1911 he acquired the land in Langley, just as the Canadian National Railway tracks were being laid.
Kavanagh moved to California a few years later, where one of his daughters had settled with her husband. He died in Los Angeles.
Trans Mountain filed documents with the National Energy Board documenting the search for the true owner of the land.
Kavanagh’s will showed he left all his property to his wife Helen (Nellie) Irene Kavanagh, who is also now long since deceased.
But no will could be found for Nellie Kavanagh.
Trans Mountain then commissioned a genealogy search and found multiple descendents, including two elderly granddaughters of the Kavanaghs, both living in the United States. One is living in Norwalk, Connecticut, and the other in La Jolla, California. The pipeline company has tried to contact both women.
To attempt to find the real owner of the land, Trans Mountain has bought ads in multiple newspapers, including the Langley Advance Times, and papers in La Jolla and Norwalk, trying to notify Kavanagh’s descendents of their interest in the property.
Trans Mountain is required to reach agreements for access with each landowner along the route of the expanded pipeline. If no agreement can be reached, the Canadian Energy Regulatory may ultimately grant Trans Mountain right to enter the property in any case.