Archaeological Impact Assessments

Archaeological Impact Assessments (AIAs) are required where potential conflicts have been identified between archaeological resources and a proposed development.

AIAs 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.

Last updated: February 3, 2021 

Before you start your development 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 (AOA) first. If a mapped area of high archaeological potential overlaps with a proposed development, a professional consulting archaeologist can determine whether an AIA is required. This may also necessitate a field visit, known as Preliminary Field Reconnaissance (PFR).

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

What to expect during an AIA

During an AIA, sites are located and recorded, and site significance is evaluated to assess the nature and extent of expected impacts. AIAs also include recommendations to manage the expected impact of property development on the site. 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 AIA process used in B.C. is flexibility. Certain categories of information are required for decision-making, however, each AIA 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 AIAs and management studies, in the level of detail at which these studies are undertaken, and in the reporting requirements, depending on the project.

Permitting Requirements

AIAs require a Heritage Inspection Permit issued by the branch. They are used to identify site locations, 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 will also be 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 then reviews applications and permit deliverables, manages consultation with First Nations, and provides management direction for the sites.