At Trans Mountain, we take our commitment to environmental protection seriously. As part of the Expansion Project, substantial work has gone into determining potential environmental impacts and mitigation methods to reduce the impact to the environment. Our goal is to protect the environment, have as little impact as possible and, where possible, ensure we are returning the land to its original function.

Since 2012, our environmental team has been out in the field studying a wide range of environmental features, including wildlife, species at risk, fish, plants, soils, archeology and traditional land use. Following the field studies, we conducted extensive analysis to predict the potential effects associated with the Project and this information was used to develop our environmental plans. Trans Mountain also collected input from stakeholders and communities to help refine the environmental plans prior to approval by the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) and the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to meet the conditions set out by those regulators.

Trans Mountain has developed more than 60 environmental protection and management plans relating to specific aspects of construction. These plans have been approved by the CER and must be implemented before, during and after construction along the pipeline right-of-way, at facilities and related access areas. Trans Mountain’s plans are in addition to regulations, codes and standards set out by federal and provincial regulators.

Environmental professionals have logged more than 25,000 person-days working diligently in the field to identify environmental features and habitat prior to construction to ensure proper mitigation, including avoidance, can be developed prior to construction commencing. Since construction has started, environmental crews have continued their work and, to date, have spent more than 15,000 person-days implementing site-specific mitigation measures for these features and will continue this work throughout construction.

To understand the significant efforts undertaken and regulations that Trans Mountain adheres to, we spoke with a few of our experienced environmental inspectors.

What types of plans does Trans Mountain have in place for wildlife mitigation during construction?

Trans Mountain’s Pipeline Environmental Protection Plan (EPP) is a CER-approved comprehensive compilation of environmental protection procedures, mitigation measures and monitoring commitments related to pipeline construction. The Pipeline EPP is used in conjunction with detailed environmental alignment sheets and resource specific mitigation tables (RSMT) that provide site-specific information pertaining to the environmental and socio-economic setting for each location on the construction footprint. The alignment sheets and resource specific mitigation tables include information on the type of habitat, as well as any terrestrial features and wildlife that are present.

The Pipeline EPP has been developed to communicate environmental procedures and measures to the Project pipeline construction and inspection personnel in a clear and concise format. These procedures and measures must be followed by all personnel to avoid, reduce or mitigate potential adverse environmental effects from construction, including pre- and post-construction phases.

Are there specific plans for mitigating impacts to migratory birds?

Trans Mountain has developed policies and procedures for the protection of migratory birds and their habitat. These measures, listed in the EPP and associated RSMT, were developed using guidance documents produced by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Canadian Wildlife Service and industry best practice, and have been extensively reviewed and approved by federal and provincial regulatory authorities. These documents were prepared in consultation with stakeholders and communities in the areas where we are planning to conduct work.

In Canada, the general nesting period for migratory birds may start as early as mid-March and extend until late August. However, in the Lower Mainland some species, such as the Anna’s Hummingbird and Song Sparrow, can begin nesting in February. In the event that clearing or construction activities are scheduled to commence within the nesting period, a Wildlife Resource Specialist (WRS)* is consulted to determine the need to conduct a non-intrusive area search for evidence of nesting (e.g., presence of territorial males, alarm calls, distraction displays, adults carrying nesting material/food). If a need is determined, daily inspection for nests takes place in the area each morning by a WRS. If a nest is observed, appropriate buffers around the nests are marked and roped off until the bird has left the nest.

Additionally, as part of our Pipeline EPP, there are several management plans detailing mitigation measures relating to wildlife listed under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). There are specific mitigation plans in place for Sowaqua Spotted Owl, Barn Owl, Williamson’s Sapsucker and Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Western Screech-Owl. These plans can be viewed here.

*A Wildlife Resource Specialist (WRS) is a provincially-regulated Professional Biologist (P. Biol (Alberta) or R.P. Bio (British Columbia)) or Experienced Individual under the supervision or guidance of a provincially-regulated Professional Biologist.

What does Trans Mountain do to ensure the protection of birds and their nests during construction?

Trans Mountain has implemented significant programs and procedures to protect birds and their nests and follows all applicable guidelines. Mitigation measures include the use of non-intrusive nest sweeps and the establishment of species-specific buffer zones around active nests to ensure our construction activities have the least impact possible on nesting birds.

Buffer zones for active nests are marked by flagging tape so they are clearly visible. Trees and vegetation within the buffer zone where active nests are present are not cut down until confirmation is received from the WRS that the nest is no longer active.

ECCC has guidelines in place that Trans Mountain and its contractors follow to ensure birds and their nests are protected during construction. More information can be found here.

How big is the buffer area around the tree and nests?

As per ECCC guidance, appropriate setback distances are determined on a case-by-case basis based on:

  • Distance at which nesting birds react to human disturbance
  • Expert opinion, which is often used to supplement scientific data
  • Surrounding terrain and pre-existing disturbance features (e.g., highways, railways)

Can a bird nest be relocated?

For most migratory bird species, removing the nest after the breeding season will have no effect on the ability of birds to nest again. The great majority build or occupy new nests each year. However, some species may reuse the same nest structure year after year.

In 2017, as part of preparation for site construction work at Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, BC, an eagle’s nest was identified near the southeast boundary of the terminal close to future construction activities. Trans Mountain cooperatively engaged with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and local raptor specialists to develop a detailed Eagle Nest Mitigation Plan.

In 2018, the pair of eagles successfully nested and had offspring in an artificial nest platform that was built by a local raptor specialist as part of that plan. In 2019, our team observed the eagles had built their own nest in a new location in a forested area east of the terminal away from construction activities and in 2020 and 2021, our WRS confirmed successful nesting activities of this breeding pair.

What happens if a nest is discovered after tree clearing has begun?

If a nest is discovered after clearing has begun, work immediately stops in the area and a wildlife resource specialist is consulted on the appropriate buffer to protect the nesting bird. The buffer zone is marked by flagging tape so it’s clearly visible and all activity within the buffer zone is halted until confirmation is received from the WRS that the nest is no longer active.