Kicking Horse Canyon - Environmental Responsibility
Provincial and federal environmental agencies are helping to ensure the regulations are met and approvals are in place for the Kicking Horse Canyon Project. Detailed environmental assessments have been completed and we are working with stakeholders to minimize impacts to wildlife populations and habitats.
The Kicking Horse Canyon Project received the Transportation Association of Canada’s Environmental Achievement Award in 2007.
The Canadian Environment Assessment Act requires comprehensive environmental assessment studies be performed to aid in making informed decisions. Approvals are then requested with the understanding of the impact the project will have on the environment. Permits must be obtained before the construction process can begin.
Air and Water Quality
The Golden area experiences among the highest levels of airborne pollution in the province. The Kicking Horse Canyon Project has a no-burn policy for cleared vegetation and requires dust control measures. Designs with more gentle grades reduce vehicle emissions and contribute to improved vehicle efficiency. Design and construction phases address water quality and the protection of aquatic habitat. 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 Kicking Horse Canyon Project is experimenting with several techniques to provide additional slope stabilization, and to promote the establishment of woody vegetation for long-term benefit.
Planting pockets use filter fabric bags to reinforce islands of plants which are established in topsoil and then spread through seed dispersion and 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.
Portions of a bighorn sheep herd that had outgrown a grazing area near Golden have been relocated. A materials pit near the new Park Bridge was turned into a fish rearing pond, complete with rootwads, plantings, hydroseeded grass and a fence for added protection.
The design includes mitigation measures to reduce animal-vehicle collisions in the east and west segments of the project.
Wildlife fencing, crossing structures (both underpasses and overpasses) and one-way earthen escape ramps 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