Environmental Assessment for an Offshore Wind Energy Project

Located off the coast of British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii islands in Hecate Strait, the site of the proposed NaiKun wind energy project is said to offer some of the strongest and most consistent winds anywhere in the world—ideal conditions for a renewable energy initiative of this type. This region is also highly valued by residents and visitors alike for its natural beauty and unspoiled wilderness. For this project to proceed, NaiKun would first need to complete a thorough environmental assessment in accordance with provincial and federal regulatory requirements. Archipelago undertook the marine
ecology component of this assessment, working closely with a multidisciplinary team of industry experts from Hemmera and Pottinger Gaherty Environmental Consultants. The fact that this project involved multiple geographic locations presented a unique challenge for the assessment team; the plan called for wind turbines to be located at a remote site on Dogfish Banks, with subsea marine cables extending across Hecate Strait to the mainland near Prince Rupert and the islands of Haida Gwaii. Additionally, the significance of the entire Dogfish Banks region to local Dungeness crab fisheries raised concerns about potential interactions with fisheries and possible impacts to the resource itself. The team needed to fully explore this issue and address these concerns within its environmental assessment.

Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project Environmental Assessment

Overview of project:
Archipelago provided the environmental assessment for the marine component of the gas pipeline project that was located in Portland Inlet and Chatham Sound and ended at Ridley Island (south of the proposed Vopak project). This assessment involved a thorough technical overview of marine resources and features along the marine portion of the pipeline, and the development of sound mitigation strategies to address the environmental interactions identified by the assessment. During this process, Archipelago provided environmental information and advisement to the engineering design team, and consulted closely with First Nations representatives and other key stakeholders. The final report examined three main components: nearshore marine habitat and ecosystems; offshore marine habitat and ecosystems; and seabed sediment and related water quality. In November 2014, Spectra Energy’s Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission project received its Environmental Assessment Certificate from the Government of British Columbia.

Marine Habitat Creation and Monitoring: Rocky Reef Construction

Project Overview:
With a natural habitat bank planned for Greater Victoria’s Esquimalt Harbour, Archipelago in partnership with SNC Lavalin—was contracted by the Department of National Defense (CFB Esquimalt) to facilitate the project from an environmental perspective. This involved identifying the best locations for three rocky reefs, creating a design for each of the structures, and monitoring the construction and colonization of the new reefs. To identify feasible locations for the new reefs, Archipelago incorporated underwater dive and towed–video surveys, habitat feature mapping, and wind and wave–modeling techniques (the latter of which was completed by SNC Lavalin). SNC Lavalin then produced the conceptual designs for the three rocky reefs. Archipelago monitored the marine environment during construction to identify any risks or impacts to the environment, and after construction to assess the colonization of the new rocky reefs.
The site locations within Esquimalt Harbour presented a range of challenges as the site depth, wave exposure, substrate characteristics, and valued eelgrass habitats all had to be considered, along with the risk of navigational hazards within this busy harbour. Additionally, the short timeline for completion—from initial survey to conceptual design—presented an additional constraint, demanding a timely response throughout all aspects of the project. Upon the project’s completion in 2012, Archipelago again used underwater dive surveys to assess the colonization of the new reefs. Within less than a year, the rocky reefs had become home to a diversity of algae and kelp, invertebrates, and fish, signifying that the reefs were beginning to function as intended.

Capital Regional District Harbours Ecological Inventory Pilot

Project Overview:
The Capital Regional District (CRD) of Greater Victoria recently sponsored a pilot project to investigate and determine accurate, economically efficient, and easily repeatable methodologies to update the outdated ecological inventory of the urban harbours. The objective of the ecological inventory and classification is to provide data and maps that can be used to inform land use decisions and direct protection and restoration efforts, as well as show change over time.

For the pilot, six test areas were selected in the urban harbours to investigate three remote imaging methodologies – multispectral satellite imagery; CRD orthophoto base map; and drone (UAV). Sites were chosen to represent the variety of coastal features, habitats and ‘ecological values’ classified in the previous inventory. Biological and physical features of the backshore land, intertidal and nearshore subtidal zones were included. Sites were visited on the ground during summer low tides and observations of physical and biological attributes, along with supporting photographs were mapped directly into high-resolution handheld geospatial data recorder. An additional module to trial automated supervised classification was also done. Suitability of the test classification methods were evaluated using systematic comparison.

In a multi-stakeholder user workshop, recommended methodologies were reviewed, and priority features and indicators were identified in the data. Results of the pilot and workshop helped inform the next steps in determining which methodologies are optimal to conduct an overall ecological inventory and on-line mapping product.

Understory Kelp Salvage, Recolonization Of Disturbed Sites To Mitigate Temporal Habitat Loss.

Project Overview:
Defense Construction Canada, on behalf of the Department of National Defense (DND), undertook dredging in Constance Cove, Esquimalt Harbour, as part of DND’s multi-year, harbour-wide sediment remediation program. One of the mitigation measures recently implemented with the Constance Cove remedial dredging is the salvage of understory kelp within the project’s dredge footprint prior to the dredging; the relocation of salvaged material to a temporary storage area, and restocking once construction is complete. This work has been conducted on an ongoing basis since 2017 by Archipelago in collaboration with SNC Lavalin and SLR Consulting. These kelp salvage measures are intended to address impacts of temporal fish habitat loss due to dredging activities in an area with an existing kelp bed, and to reduce the succession time required for a disturbed area to return to a functioning kelp habitat. Understory kelp provides important functions supporting the productivity of local Esquimalt Harbour Commercial, Recreational and Aboriginal (CRA) fish such as Pacific herring, rockfish, Pacific salmon, greenling, sea perch, among others. The understory macro algae Saccharina latissima (sugar kelp) was the primary target species for salvage in areas within the dredge footprint that had greater than 25% cover attached to salvageable rock substrate. During storage of salvaged kelp and substrate, kelp enhancement lines, employing locally developed kelp cultivation techniques, were installed to provide an additional source of spores to inoculate the salvaged substrate, as well as provide additional temporary fish habitat during construction activities.