Although more than three-quarters of the expanded pipeline route will be built along the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline right-of-way or other linear features, removal of forested areas, trees and vegetation will be required in several locations to accommodate construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Trans Mountain is always looking for additional opportunities to minimize the impact of its construction footprint. To learn more, we spoke with Matthew McTavish, a consultant member of Trans Mountain’s forestry management team, who has several years of working experience involving forest and vegetation management, environment and reclamation projects for Trans Mountain.

Why does Trans Mountain have to remove trees?

In order to accommodate the safe operation of the new pipeline installation and supporting facilities, forestry crews are required to clear land and remove trees located within the boundaries of the facilities, along the pipeline right-of-way and temporary workspace, also referred to as the construction footprint.

This work complies with necessary approvals, permits and Project Environmental Protection Plans and will be monitored by experienced environmental inspectors. In addition, qualified forestry professionals will be on-site during key activities to provide oversight of tree and forest health protection measures to minimize potential impacts to adjacent forested ecosystems and landscapes.

Why can’t the same species of trees be replanted along the right-of-way after construction is complete?

Trans Mountain is required by federal regulation to achieve aerial clearance and access along the Project right-of-way for the new pipeline easement (the actual pipeline installation) to ensure the safe operation, maintenance and integrity of the pipeline. Trans Mountain must conduct extensive and integrated vegetation management efforts to meet these standards. Trees growing within the pipeline easement can make operation and maintenance work more challenging and potentially unsafe.

Although the pipeline easement itself will not be replanted with replacement trees, the temporary workspaces where trees were removed will be reforested once construction is complete. 

Of importance to note is the reclaimed surface of the pipeline easement will be revegetated with compatible native grasses and an ecologically appropriate mix of native, low growing shrubs and herbaceous species.

What determines the types of trees that are replanted?

Whether it’s the pipeline easement or temporary workspace areas, Trans Mountain has developed its ecosystem-based reclamation plans with considerations for the native grasses, plant and tree species found naturally in the local area and are included within or adjacent to the construction footprint.  

Areas of rural, open and Crown land will be planted with a selected species mix of native conifer and deciduous seedlings in various sizes. Sensitive environmental areas will be restored as per the site-specific reclamation plans developed through detailed inventory, assessment and prescription of reclamation measures dependent on the environmental conditions and target species of the area. Reclamation will consider many aspects and components of how trees and other vegetation influence the environment including wildlife and fish habitat values, erosion control, water quality, soil quality and many others.   

Trans Mountain’s land agents and consultants are working with landowners, ensuring their preferences for property landscapes and revegetation are documented for final reclamation, according to the conditions and schedules of each landowner agreement.

If revegetation and reclamation activities are not meeting our expectations, as determined by assessments conducted during detailed monitoring visits, we will amend the prescription for the specific area as needed and reseed or replant to ensure vegetation establishment is successful. The primary reclamation objective is to ensure the land is reclaimed and restored in such a way that it will meet ecological function targets and is acceptable to the stakeholders involved.

TMEP will continue to monitor and maintain its reclamation objectives through ongoing monitoring, assessment and maintenance commitments to ensure any specified plantings are successfully re-established, functioning as intended and compliant with our approved reclamation plans.

What sort of work takes place prior to tree removal?

Over the life of the Project, Trans Mountain has and will continue to work with stakeholders in developing management plans that are acceptable to the participating parties.

Project management plans will include both necessary clearing and selective tree removals, which includes assessing forests, tree stands and trees for potential risk to public, property, infrastructure, construction equipment and personnel and abating hazards, as needed. This assessment and planning information is used in Project construction phases in support of Environmental Protection Plans.

Teams have worked diligently in the field collecting survey data on the forested areas in the construction footprint to identify potential impacts to any number of environmental features, including fish and wildlife habitats and overall ecological function. Construction scheduling for clearings has been developed with consideration of sensitive species timing windows, such as migratory birds, among others. 

Trans Mountain has also collected baseline landscape inventory information throughout the Project route for the entire construction footprint. This inventory includes landscape features such as shelter belts, ornamental trees, fruit trees, hedges, lawns, etc. as identified within individual properties. The reason for this inventory is to ensure that once the pipeline is installed and construction is completed, these properties are reclaimed and restored to their original condition.

Once trees are removed, does Trans Mountain provide any new measures to act as a sound barrier?

A perception exists that trees provide sound abatement and dampen noise. Several studies have been done on the effects of vegetation and vegetated buffers in reducing sound volumes, and study results indicate in most cases, the overall difference in sound levels, with or without a vegetated buffer, is negligible.

However, we recognize the visual and aesthetic values for a vegetated buffer and we take that into account. There are several properties where site-specific reclamation plans include the re-establishment of tree stands or vegetated visual buffers.

What happens to the trees after they are removed?

Timber marketing and management plans have been developed specifically for this Project. Where feasible, non-merchantable wood material, also known as coarse woody debris, will be used for site-specific reclamation activities such as surface soils amendment, riparian and wildlife habitat enhancements or erosion control. Merchantable timber is harvested from the Project construction footprint and delivered to mills for further processing. If merchantable timber is located on private land, the landowner is compensated for timber loss or the timber is processed and stacked at an agreed upon location for the landowner to sell or manage as specified in the land agreement. 

Trans Mountain is committed to abide by all provincial and federal regulation, as well as following industry best management practices, as they relate to forest stewardship. We recognize and respect the many stakeholders involved in our forest management activities and remain committed to working with these stakeholders to maintain, protect and ensure the forests will remain healthy and productive for future generations.