Project Highlights

Evaluation of Fish Population Characteristics as a Monitoring Tool for a Large River

B.C. Hydro Commission initiated a research study to develop and evaluate sampling protocols to monitor the fish community of the Peace River in north eastern British Columbia. The study, which has been ongoing since 2001, examined collection methods, fish population parameters, and analytical procedures in order to develop suitable monitoring protocols.

Initial evaluations from 2001 to 2003 established that standardized boat electrofishing in near-shore habitats was the best fish collection method. Biological characteristics, catch rates, and population estimates were selected as monitoring parameters. A stratified sample design that addressed the effects of water clarity and discharge was sufficient to reduce background variation to allow detection of statistical change in the study parameters. In addition, the ability to develop precise population estimates and catch rate indices for target populations allowed evaluation of catchability. For some species catchability was spatially and temporally stable, which provided strong evidence that catch rate was a good index of absolute abundance.

Sampling completed to date has provided spatial and temporal trend data that has documented annual changes in the fish community. The investigations have established that sampling protocols can be developed to effectively monitor fish populations in large rivers. The protocols involve use of appropriate target species and parameters, a study design that is specific to the river system in question, a standardized methodology, and sample stratification.

Purmal Forcemain Environmental Effects Assessment

The City of Medicine Hat required an upgrade to their existing sewer forcemain system, which required crossings of the South Saskatchewan River in two locations. Mainstream Aquatics Ltd., as a subcontractor to MPE Engineering Ltd., completed all aspects of the environmental effects assessment, regulatory approvals and monitoring.

The assessment involved an evaluation of potential impacts to the aquatic environment (including hydrology, water quality, fish, and fish habitat) using accepted methodologies (i.e., Canadian Environmental Assessment Act or CEAA). Potential effects were identified and mitigation measures developed that were acceptable to the client. Client interests were represented during discussions with representatives of Alberta Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, and Fisheries Oceans Canada (DFO). Regulators accepted use of an open cut isolation method as an appropriate crossing technique in conjunction with and comprehensive Sediment Management Plan.

Subsequent negotiations with DFO for a Section 35 Habitat Authorization resolved habitat compensation requirements to the satisfaction of all parties. A fish and habitat inventory study of the South Saskatchewan River, in lieu of physical habitat enhancement works, was implemented. Data generated by this study have been used by the City for subsequent environmental assessments requiring regulatory reviews.

Jericho Diamond Mine Aquatic Effects Monitoring Program

The Jericho Diamond Mine, which is located about 400 km north of Great Slave Lake received ministerial approval from the Nunavut government in January 2005. A condition of approval was development and implementation of a comprehensive aquatic effects monitoring program (AEMP). Mainstream Aquatics Ltd. assisted Tahera during the regulatory review process and spearheaded development of the AEMP.

The purpose of the AEMP is to monitor the potential effects of the Jericho Diamond Mine on the aquatic environment. The goals of the program are to protect the health and integrity of the environment, confirm impact predictions, ascertain whether mitigation measures are effective, and adjust mitigation where appropriate.

Mainstream personnel implemented preliminary monitoring studies in 2001 and expanded the program in 2004 to meet regulatory requirements. The program has been conducted annually since 2004. Monitoring components include water quality, sediment quality, sedimentation, stream hydrology, phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, metal contaminants in fish, and fish community characteristics. Mainstream is responsible for data collection, data analyses and interpretation, and quality assurance.

Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project Baseline Studies and Environmental Assessment

Glacier Power Ltd. has proposed development of the Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project on the Peace River near the Town of Fairview, Alberta. The development would be low-head 100 MW run-of-the river facility that would inundate a portion of the Peace River flood plain and raise water levels approximately 6 m.

Since 2001, Mainstream Aquatics Ltd. has assisted Glacier Power Ltd. in all aspects of the environmental review process including conducting baseline studies, completion of the environmental effects evaluation, development of comprehensive monitoring and habitat compensation plans, and providing expert testimony during EUB/NRCB hearings.

Mainstreamís primary role has been to develop strategies to help Glacier Power Ltd. to resolve environmental issues. Facilitating upstream and downstream fish movement past the facility is a fundamental issue. Mainstream implemented a comprehensive fish movement study from 2001 to 2005. Information from that work, which described fish movement corridors and fish movement patterns, was used during modeling of fish by-pass mitigation structures and will serve as baseline pre-development data needed to test the success of mitigation.

Given that the proposed facility will be the first of its kind in western Canada, monitoring of anticipated effects and compensating for known impacts will be very important. Mainstream personnel have developed a structured, scientifically defensible monitoring plan and a habitat compensation plan in cooperation with the proponent and regulator authorities. Both plans required novel approaches in order to address concerns of both parties.

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