Archaeological Impact Assessments

Impact assessments are required where potential conflicts have been identified between archaeological resources and a proposed development.

Archaeological impact assessments mainly apply to development projects that are subject to B.C.'s environmental impact assessment and review processes. However, the same principles can also apply to other developments.

Before You Start Your Project

The Heritage Conservation Act protects unknown, as well as recorded archaeological sites. Part of the planning process for any development is to identify areas which may contain unrecorded archaeological sites with an archaeological overview assessment.

If a mapped area of high archaeological potential overlaps with a proposed development, a professional consulting archaeologist can determine whether an archaeological impact assessment is required. This may necessitate a field visit, also known as preliminary field reconnaissance.

If an impact assessment is not required, the archaeologist will summarize the findings in a letter sent to the proponent and copied to the branch.

Archaeological Impact Assessment

The assessment includes recommendations to manage the expected impact of property development on the site. Sites are located and recorded, and site significance is evaluated to assess the nature and extent of expected impacts. These recommendations may include:

  • Avoiding the site
  • Recovering archaeological site information prior to land altering activities
  • Monitoring for additional archaeological site information during land altering activities

A characteristic of the impact assessment process used in B.C. is flexibility. Certain categories of information are required for decision-making, however, each archaeological study must be tailored to meet specific project characteristics and needs.

Archaeology branch staff are available to meet with project proponents to provide project-specific clarification and interpretation of the process. Flexibility can be expected in the staging of impact assessment and management studies, the level of detail at which these studies are undertaken, and the reporting requirements, depending on the project.

Impact Assessment Permits

Assessments require a heritage inspection permit issued by the branch. Permitted archaeological impact assessments are used to identify site locations, and to evaluate site significance and determine the magnitude of development-related impact when sites cannot be avoided.

If development activities such as harvesting trees, excavating utility trenches, or other ground disturbing activities need to be conducted within the boundaries of a recorded archaeological site, a site alteration permit is required.

Permit applications may be prepared by a qualified professional archaeologist on behalf of the developer and are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to the archaeological site.

The archaeology branch reviews applications and permit deliverables, manages consultation with First Nations, and provides management direction for the sites.