What is an environmental assessment?

Environmental assessments form an important part of any development.  The  aim of an environmental assessment is to provide a sound understanding of a project in terms of its potential impacts on the natural environment.  This includes a range of assessments depending on the type and scale of the project along with its location in the environment.  These often include;

  • Biophysical Impact Assessments which aim to determine the level of impacts in the ecology and biology of a site and its surrounds.  These include plant and animal surveys which are often seasonal in response to the specific biological attributes of a species and when it is most likely to be detected.  These often include rare plant surveys, migratory bird surveys and species at risk surveys.
  • Environmental Site Assessments (Phase 1 and 2) aim to determine if past or current activities have resulted in a site becoming contaminated.  The Phase 1 ESA is a detailed site inspection, records searches including historical records and historical aerial photographs.  If a risk of contamination is found to be likely then the assessment proceeds to a Phase 2 ESA which involves intrusive sampling for potential contaminants which are likely to occur. This helps protect the new development by providing a safe environment and remediation is often required to make a site suitable for the proposed development.
  • Wetlands Assessments are undertaken to determine potential impacts on wetlands.  Although similar in many ways to Biological impact Assessments they focus specifically on the wetland environment.  This involves delineation and classification of a wetland and rating of its significance.

Early planning to identity which Environmental Assessments are required as part of your project is useful in the planning process particularly considering some of the assessments are subject to seasonal requirements.

As Environmental Consultants Calgary, Edmonton and also servicing B.C. we undertake a range of Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments, Biophysical and Biological Assessments, Migratory Bird Survey’s and Wetlands Assessments.  We are here to assist our clients so please give us a call to discuss your next project.

Wildfire Protection

Although it is not something that is on our minds at this time of year, as we turn the corner into spring then summer wildfire protection is something which needs to be considered.  This is particularly important for  landowners near to forest but also grassland areas need to be considered.  Risks vary seasonally based upon levels of snow melt, rain, level of vegetation growth and levels of soil and vegetation moisture.  Good soil moisture levels early in the season followed by a lack of follow up rain results in high levels of fuel from vegetation growth leading to higher potential summer risks from wildfire.  It is worth remembering that even what appears to be a small risk can be heightened by lack of moisture and a quick drying off from high summer temperatures.  Fire spread and intensity on days with low humidity and windy conditions increases the risk to persons and property.

If you live in an area where there is a risk of wildfire now is the time to start thinking about the upcoming season and to prepare for this risk.  There are many management and preparedness actions which can be taken to reduce the risk.

For an assessment of your property for wildfire risk please give us a call.  As Environmental Consultants based in Calgary and Edmonton we service all of Alberta and British Columbia.  Our experience in Wildfire combined with Biophysical And Biological Impact Assessments along with Phase 1 ESA’s allows us to assist our clients with a range of assessments.

Why does the Bank require an Environmental Site Assessment report?

This is an all too common question we get from our prospective clients.  It is a good question as there is an expense involved to the client or seller of the property or whoever may be leasing the property.  In our time undertaking Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments (Phase 1 ESA’s) in Calgary and Edmonton and right throughout Alberta we have seen many different situations where a Phase 1 ESA assists a client to protect them against liability and risk.

At the bottom of this article is a link to an excellent article by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).  This article outlines a good summary of the aspects of a Phase 1 ESA along with the benefits of undertaking a Phase 1 ESA and the risks of not undertaking such an assessment.  In short however the purpose of a Phase 1 ESA is to evaluate where there is likely to be actual or potential contamination impacting or on a property.  Banks such as RBC, BDC, TD, BMO, ATB, CIBC and HSBC all generally require a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment when lending on properties which may have a risk of contamination.  The reason they require a Phase 1 ESA for a mortgage on a property is that the asset under the mortgage, until paid off, is often largely owned by the bank.  Therefore, the aim for the bank is protection to ensure they are not lending money on what may be a liability.  This can occur if for example you are purchasing a property for $500,000 which has a contamination issue with costs for example $100,000 to clean up.  This is why the banks require a Phase 1 ESA.  They wish to limit their exposure to an asset which has significant liabilities.

As a potential purchaser you also want to know if the property you are going to purchase is contaminated.  Whether you are lucky enough to be able to purchase with cash or require a mortgage, if the property is found to be contaminated once you purchase it then you own that contamination.  While in some cases it is possible to chase the previous owner on neighboring owners who may have created the contamination problem this is often fruitless and is extremely expensive.

Sellers of property, particularly commercial properties and farmland benefit from having a current Phase 1 ESA to provide to potential purchasers.  Potential purchasers are often reluctant to spend the money for a Phase 1 ESA on a property if there is a similar property available which already has a Phase 1 ESA report available.  This often enables multiple offers on an industrial property as it is clear to all potential purchasers that the site does not have a risk of contamination being present.

In many cases it is part of a commercial lease agreement that the property is left in the same condition as when the lease was written.  Some leases have clauses that the property must not be contaminated by any activity.  The issue for a business or individual entering into a lease however is that the property may potentially already have contamination present.  As such it is best to always undertake a Phase 1 ESA when taking on a rental lease particularly for a commercial property so you know if the property has been contaminated by a previous tenant.  If you do not protect yourself by undertaking this type of assessment (often as an elevated Phase 1 ESA with some sampling) you run the risk that you may be exposed to having to clean up a site you never contaminated.

So, a Phase 1 ESA represents a sound investment.  As Environmental Consultants based in Alberta and also covering British Columbia we are well placed to service our clients in the West.

Why not give us a call today and let us assist you with your next project.

Also please take the time to read this excellent article from BDC which provides a sound level of detail on Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments.

https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/money-finance/buy-lease-commercial-real-estate/pages/what-you-need-know-about-environmental-site-assessments.aspx

 

What is a Biophysical Impact Assessment or Ecological Impact Assessment ?

A Biophysical Impact Assessment (sometimes called a Biological or Ecological Impact Assessment – BIA or EIA) is an assessment and evaluation of the impact of a proposed project on identified environmentally significant areas, natural parks and natural areas.  These BIA Assessments are used by consent authorities to provide a full background of the Biological and Ecological Values of a site.  Once these values are clearly understood then the full impact on these values can be evaluated and mitigation or compensation can be recommended to reduce the impacts.  These assessments identify environmentally significant areas which often include; wetlands, habitat corridors, rare and endangered plants or animals and their habitats including migratory bird habitat, and Species at Risk.  They provide a background of current conditions and any significant features which need to be considered as part of your proposed development and assist assessing officers in determining any likely impacts to items of significance.  They also allow for mitigative measures to be identified at the project stage.

The information for the background of these reports generally includes:

  • Physical landscape assessment – topography, soil and geology;
  • Hydrology – presence of wetlands and waterbodies such as drainage corridors, streams, creeks, and rivers;
  • Habitat types;
  • Landscape Ecology assessment – wildlife corridors, habitat connections, and any unique features;
  • ANHIC, FWMIS, database research results on the potential presence of listed species at risk, species of special status or rare communities.

Most municipalities have guidelines on what specifically they want considered for these assessments and often they will provide the landowner or their applicant with a letter outlining specific requirements they would like considered.  Often surveys need to be undertaken in the correct season so consideration needs to be given that project planning is critical to assist in achieving project timelines.

The City of Calgary has a Biophysical Impact Assessment Framework which provides details of the various levels of assessment required for various projects and their impacts.  This can be found at:

http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Documents/Construction/biophysical-impact-assessment-framework.pdf?noredirect=1

The Alberta Government also has a guide “Environmental Assessment Program Guide to Preparing Environmental Impact Assessment Reports in Alberta” which provides detailed information about assessment impacts of projects on the natural environment.  This can be found at:

https://open.alberta.ca/publications/4903114

At Anderson Environmental we provide a range of Biophysical Assessment Services Including:

  • Biological Assessments
    • Wetland Assessments
    • Vegetation Assessments
    • Wildlife Surveys
    • Pre-Disturbance Planning & Assessment
    • Environmental Screening Reports
    • Natural Site Assessment
    • Species Biodiversity Reports
    • Ecological Land Classification & Community Typing
    • Vegetation Community Description & Rare Plant Surveys
    • Vegetation and Soils Mapping
    • Invasive Species Surveys & Management Plans
    • Migratory Bird Surveys
    • Environmental Protection Plans

We also undertake a range of soils and Phase 1 ESA’s and Phase 2 ESA’s covering Calgary, Edmonton, and all areas of Alberta and British Columbia.

Please give us a call for assistance with your next project.