Marine Habitat Creation and Monitoring: Rocky Reef Construction
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.