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NORTHERN GATEWAY: Environmental issues raised

Tim Leadem, representing a coalition of environmental groups like ForestEthics Advocacy, the Raincoast Science Foundation and Living Oceans, explained he intended to question the panel about the ESA methodology as well as the Telkwa caribou herd during Monday afternoon’s joint review panel hearing.

Leadem asked if the habitat models that were used would be followed up by field studies.

“In order to have quality assurance that the habitat suitability modelling that you have used has been applied correctly, would you agree that it is important to follow the modelling work with field studies?” Leadem asked.

Colleen Bryden, Enbridge expert witness, said that during the process both field studies and modelling were utilized.

Some of the field work, she added, was done in order to help develop the suitability models. More fieldwork is planned, including additional baseline information on bird populations, though the fieldwork isn’t being done to verify the habitat models used in the assessment.

“The additional work we will be undertaking is related to characterizing baseline conditions going forward as a component of monitoring project effects during operations,” Bryden said.

Jeffery Green, another expert panel member, added to the information Bryden presented, saying they use different types of habitat models. Bryden, he said, was referring to the habitat suitability models while they also use linear feature density modelling.

“I wouldn’t call it modelling, but we’re now doing a more detailed analysis of linear features to aid in what we’re referring to as this linear feature removal or habitat compensation plan,” Green said. “So identifying what’s our contribution to linear feature creation; what’s our objective for compensation and where might we implement linear feature removal.”

The additional material will be filed with the National Energy Board.

Green said the intent of the linear feature removal plans, or compensation plans, is to develop a plan for each of the five caribou herds as well as other wildlife sensitive areas they are focusing on. Once filed, they intend to consult with Aboriginal groups as well as other public stakeholders.

Leadem asked if environmental non-governmental groups would be included as stakeholders.

Paul Anderson, also an expert panel member, said they intend to distribute the information through the community advisory boards (CAB).

Although he couldn’t say specifically which environmental groups were members of the CAB’s, Anderson said the invitation to participate in a CAB was sent out quite broadly, and the opportunity to get involved in one was still open.

“I don’t have a listing of all of the environmental groups that are involved or the ones that were invited,” Anderson said. “I can tell you in terms of the invitations though it was quite broadly advertised.”

Leadem returned to questioning the experts about the habitat suitability models they used.

“Getting back to the habitat suitability models used for wildlife, did the consultants or anyone from Northern Gateway/Enbridge use any ecological drivers such as global climate change or forest transitional types in order to see the impact upon those models of those two variables?” he asked.

Bryden said although they did not incorporate climate change, they did to some extent incorporate forest transition or succession.

“We incorporated mountain pine beetle considerations and depending on the species, the waitings might vary between construction and operations as time went on.  So we did incorporate that for some species,” Bryden said. “Mountain pine beetle was incorporated generally.  We also of course incorporated disturbances such as logging that might have an affect on seral structure.”

Leadem then asked if other projects had already affected the environment to the point that the thresholds for acceptable affects were already exceeded.

“I don’t think I can answer your question the way it’s being put forth because it is an all-encompassing question and we really would need to tease things apart,” Michael Preston, Enbridge expert witness, said.

Green, who pointed out he was responsible for the environmental assessment and the general approach, said he would like to land-use planning and how that plays into acceptable change before taking on Leadem’s question again, but perhaps applying it to a specific species first.

Green said land use planning sets different types of areas ranging from protected areas to urban areas, and through the middle is multiple land use areas.

“And I think it’s fair to say that the majority of this route is placed through the latter, multiple land use units in which the province has recognized the acceptability, if we will, for forestry, mining, other types of development, as well as maintaining certain levels of environment,” Green said. “So I think what I would say in general is when land is within protected areas, a pristine condition, a historical pristine condition probably is an appropriate baseline for the type of question you’re asking. In a multiple land use area, as Mr. Preston said, it’s a much more challenging question to answer.”

Leadem asked Green if he was aware of the shifting baseline concept. Green said he was and added what they did in the environmental assessment was state their assumptions about what they believe the baseline they are starting from is.

“We’re taking the baseline as we find it. But that baseline does reflect the land use planning guidelines for those areas,” Green said.

For example, he said intensive forestry operations are coming up both sides of the Hart caribou range, a project deemed acceptable within that land use plan. In consequence he said the baseline on the Hart range is different.

“And so the baseline in the Hart range, I think, is a different baseline, as you were saying, than outside the range where we’re looking at a multiple use area where it’s accepted that there are a certain level, I’m going to say acceptable impacts on wildlife given the land use planning regime.”

Leadem asked if Green accepts the idea there will be incremental changes to wildlife habitat as a result of the project.

“I think we would agree that that’s fair; that we’ve tried to quantify that change.  And, in addition, we’ve tried, well, we haven’t quantified the effect of restoration but we’ve made commitments to restoration and compensation as a result of some of the predictive habitat changes. And that compensation and restoration is focussed on the species we think would best benefit from that type of action,” Green said.

 

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