Building a bridge for humans and the natural environment

Coldstream grid road project presents unique opportunity for habitat sustainability solutions


Environmental consultants Darren Filipic and Carey Holmes watched a bridge contractor build large woody debris complexing — collections of logs secured to large boulders — and set them into Vernon Creek. This was a unique solution developed by the team to ensure that the construction of a grid road and multi-use pathway in the District of Coldstream did not disturb the spawning grounds of local fish.

“Seeing the final product and understanding that even though we constructed a bridge over important spawning habitat, I truly believe that through all the work we put into it, they’ll still be able to use it suitably,” Carey says. “I remember that (moment) vividly.”

The complexing utilized trees that were cut down on the site, located in the north Okanagan, just minutes east of Vernon, for accommodating the road and the bridge.

Bridge construction ended in Sept. 2010, as did the on-site monitoring to ensure that environmental disruptions were minimized. But the project didn’t end there. The assessment of environmental impact is more long-term, Darren explains. Post-construction monitoring for this project is set to continue for 10 years from its completion. An on-site environmental assessment will be conducted every year for the next four years (as the first year of post-construction monitoring is complete) and then at the end of the 10th year.

“It only happens every so often where you’re involved in something right from outset to the finish when it comes to long-term projects,” says Darren, who has worked with Urban Systems for six years.

The ongoing post-construction monitoring will ensure that the trees and shrubs planted (to compensate for those removed) continue to survive and thrive, as is required by the Government of Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The other area of focus is to safeguard a healthy habitat for local fish, especially rainbow trout and kokanee, whose populations are of concern in the area.

“I think we have an obligation to develop things properly, taking everything into account, as opposed to just doing things for cost purposes,” Darren says.

The team also worked with sub-contractors, including ornithologists (zoologists who study birds), herpetologists (zoologists that study reptiles and amphibians) and archaeologists to assess various natural habitats and develop compensation plans.

“My involvement in this project is only a small piece of the whole project,” Carey says. “However, I feel it can help the environment to be a more sustainable place”

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