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An in-depth look at the ongoing work at Roberts Bank to protect salmon

November 2, 2020 7:08 pm

 

The Fraser River estuary, including Roberts Bank, is home to a large number of aquatic species. It supports some of the largest salmon populations in British Columbia and serves as a spawning, nursery, and holding area for over 70 species of marine fish.

Throughout our project planning and consultation, we’ve heard from Indigenous groups, the local and surrounding communities, regulatory agencies, and environmental groups that salmon, such as chum and Chinook, are key species at Roberts Bank for a number of reasons.

We’ve heard from Indigenous groups that salmon hold a cultural significance and are an important traditional food source. Salmon, predominantly Chinook, are also an important food source for southern resident killer whales (SRKW).

Understanding the importance of salmon to Indigenous groups, local communities and the ecosystem, we designed a comprehensive environmental study program that informed the environmental assessment for the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project. This work identified opportunities for protecting salmon from potential project-related effects during construction and operation, and has informed a number of mitigation measures to avoid, reduce, or offset project-related effects.

Despite the amount of work we have already completed, environmental work at Roberts Bank continues. Field study programs for key species such as great blue heron, Dungeness crab, and salmon are ongoing and will inform the project’s follow-up program. The follow-up program will include ongoing monitoring to verify the accuracy of assessment predictions, the effectiveness of any mitigation measures and offsetting implemented, and will inform appropriate actions we may need to take to ensure that our mitigation measures and offsetting are working as intended.

Meet the experts behind this important work

Ravi Chatterji, a senior aquatic ecologist and offsetting specialist with AECOM, is one of the experts leading the offsetting component of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project. This important work includes the creation of productive habitats to ensure potential effects from the project are counterbalanced and the health of the Fraser River estuary is maintained. Ravi and the offsetting team have been working closely with Indigenous groups and regulators to identify the priority species and types of habitats the final offsetting plan will focus on.

Joe Walker, a professional biologist for Hemmera, is leading field sampling efforts to support the juvenile salmon component of the follow-up monitoring program. Joe and his crew have been collecting baseline juvenile salmon distribution and density data, and data on related environmental conditions such as water temperature and depth that will inform the juvenile salmon component of the follow-up program.

Together, Ravi, Joe and their teams have made significant contributions to the level of understanding we and others have about the marine environment at Roberts Bank. Their work will ensure the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is built in a way that protects and supports fish and fish habitat for generations to come.

Here are examples of other ways we’re addressing potential effects from the project on salmon

Potential effect: Salmon habitat could be affected as a result of the project footprint and widening of the causeway

What we’re doing: In addition to placing the terminal in deep water to avoid direct effects on sensitive intertidal habitat, if the project is approved we would create onsite and offsite fish habitat that would enhance salmon productivity at Roberts Bank by providing additional food sources and refuge from predators. Some of the types of habitats we would build include eelgrass and various forms of intertidal marsh.

Potential effect: Juvenile chum and Chinook salmon productivity could be affected due to disturbance from in-water construction activities

What we’re doing: We would avoid in-water construction activities in the intertidal zone when juvenile salmon are present at Roberts Bank

Interesting facts about our field study and offsetting work

  • Throughout 2020, our environmental experts have completed 142 days of field study at Roberts Bank
  • The juvenile salmon field study surveys took place over 59 days and included 199 sampling sessions. Over 9,900 juvenile salmon were evaluated throughout the duration of the juvenile salmon field sampling program
  • Since 2013, our Habitat Enhancement Program has created or enhanced 12 habitat sites in the lower mainland that cover an area of approximately 10 hectares, or more than 13 football fields
  • Approximately 86 hectares of offsetting habitat will be advanced as part of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project

 

Learn more about the work we’re doing to protect the environment

 

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