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Photo by Taylor P.

Photo by Taylor P.

Watercourse Crossing Inspections

Denis D., Project Manager - Environmental Assessment Services

Alberta’s network of roads and rail lines cross numerous watercourses throughout the province. The watercourse crossings require annual inspection by disposition owners. Historically, these inspections were completed by disposition owners and remediated appropriately, where required. The inspection findings were submitted to the appropriate regulatory agency. If a regulatory audit deemed a watercourse crossing non-compliant, a reactive approach was enacted, whereby regulatory agencies would require disposition owners to remediate the crossing immediately. This historical regulatory approach has not been highly supportive by either the regulators nor the disposition owners to effectively remediate non-compliant crossings.

The Government of Alberta developed a new regulatory strategy in 2015 entitled theRoadway Watercourse Crossing Remediation Directive. This Directive takes a pro-active watershed-based approach using a model to prioritize which non-compliant crossings require immediate attention. The prioritizing of non-compliant crossings is based on a risk assessment for the crossings within the watershed. Parameters used for prioritizing non-compliant watercourse crossings include whether the watercourse has the potential to be fish-bearing, the crossing’s structural integrity, and erosion potential or occurrence at the crossing location. A large focus of the watershed-based approach is to improve crossing structures which may impede fish passage and fragment fish habitat. By participating in this Directive, some watercourse crossings that are deemed non-compliant may not require immediate remediation, as efforts may be focused at other crossings within the watershed deemed a higher priority. This in turn provides disposition owners time to plan and prepare for future maintenance costs of their crossing infrastructure. As stated in this Directive “Participation in this new regulatory strategy creates a cooperative approach to planning remediation priorities between crossing owners and regulators”. Disposition owners that do not participate in this collaborative approach are subject to the historical regulatory compliance regime, where crossing owners will be required to take immediate corrective action for identified non-compliant crossings.

For a watershed-based approach using a model to identify and prioritize crossing remediation, the model is sensitive to the data being inputted. Having personnel on the “same page” when completing watercourse crossing inspections is a critical component in this new approach. Qualified third-party service providers that have completed the necessary training and calibration sessions in collaboration with the regulatory agencies is a required component to participate in this new Directive. Summit personnel have completed the required training and calibration sessions, working collaboratively with industry and regulatory agencies to support a big picture goal of watershed conservation and management. Summit looks forward to assisting disposition owners with their crossing inspections for inclusion in this pro-active watershed-based approach with respect to non-compliant crossings. For more information on this topic, please contact Denis at  


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