This is one of the first steps in the design process, as construction does not proceed without the necessary environmental approvals. Approvals such as those obtained under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act require comprehensive studies and permits for activities, and these assessments contribute to informed decision-making in support of sustainable development.
Air and Water Quality
Protecting air and water quality is key in the Golden area, which experiences among the highest levels of airborne particulate matter in the province. The Kicking Horse Canyon Project therefore has a ‘no-burn’ policy for cleared vegetation, and dust control measures are required. As well, designing more gentle grades will reduce vehicle emissions and contribute to improved vehicle efficiency. Water quality and the protection of aquatic habitat are addressed in both design and construction phases. Construction requires the implementation and monitoring of sedimentation and drainage management plans.
New structures like the Park Bridge are designed to be built full-span to avoid impacts
to the Kicking Horse River, and improved drainage designs help safeguard water quality.
The unique cantilever structure over a bend in the Kicking Horse River west of the
rest area replaced the original plan for two bridges, achieving a smooth road alignment
at lower cost and less potential environmental impact.
Temporary erosion control measures, including sediment retention ponds, silt fencing
and plastic sheeting help reduce sediment impacts to rivers and streams in the
Kicking Horse Canyon.
Crews were especially vigilant to prevent debris and contaminants from entering the
river during the removal of the old Park Bridge.
Erosion control and Slope Stabilization
The slopes of the Kicking Horse Canyon are notoriously unstable and slow to establish plant growth. Construction often results in the removal of existing vegetation that has provided soil reinforcement and erosion control. The seeding of grasses alone, often sufficient on many other projects, is not as effective in this rocky canyon environment. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is experimenting with several techniques to provide additional slope stabilization, and to promote the establishment of woody vegetation for long-term benefit.
Planting ledges are created with the installation of straw “logs” along slope contours.
These terraces encourage moisture retention and improve surface soil stability while
plantings of native vegetation become established.
“Planting pockets” use filter fabric bags to provide a structural reinforced pocket area containing topsoil to help “islands” of plants to become established, and thereafter spread on the slope through seed dispersion and/or root systems
The Kicking Horse River valley is an important wildlife corridor, providing habitat to deer, elk, bears, wolves, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose and many other species of mammals and birds. The Kicking Horse Canyon Project is working with government agencies and stakeholder groups to minimize impacts to wildlife populations and habitats.
To improve public safety and conserve wildlife resources, mitigation measures for
reducing animal-vehicle collisions have been implemented for the east and west segments of
Wildlife fencing, crossing structures (both underpasses and overpasses) and one-way
earthen escape ramps also reduce animal-vehicle collisions.
Protecting Archaeological Resources
Humans have lived and travelled in the Kicking Horse Canyon for millennia. Planning highway improvements requires awareness and sensitivity to the area’s archaeological heritage and significance.
Key measures in protecting archaeological resources include:
• Pre-project planning, including extensive review of historical information
• Early involvement of First Nations
• Flexibility in design where feasible
In some cases, work under the Kicking Horse Canyon Project enables further enhancements. For example, the project has worked with local groups to relocate portions of a herd of bighorn sheep that has outgrown its current grazing area near town. Also, a materials pit near the new Park Bridge has been turned into a fish rearing pond, complete with rootwads, plantings, hydroseeded grass and a fence for added protection.