Poorly constructed roadway watercourse crossings result in fragmented fish habitat, disrupting the ability of fish to feed, spawn and seek cover from predators.
Several species, such as Athabasca rainbow trout, bull trout, Westslope cutthroat trout and Arctic grayling, are particularly sensitive to habitat fragmentation caused by poorly constructed crossings on roadways and are considered at risk in Alberta. Recovery plans are underway for these species with an expectation of correcting habitat fragmentation resulting from watercourse crossings.
The goal of the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Program (RWCP) is to remediate fish passage issues at a watershed level, in cooperation with regulators with overlapping mandates. The focus of this work is to eliminate fish passage problems caused by poorly designed and maintained watercourse crossings in Alberta.
The RWCP is a component of an integrated provincial fisheries management approach, linked to a number of other fish species recovery and aquatic habitat conservation initiatives. See the Related section below for more.
How the program works
The approach utilizes a single coordinated system of inspection standards and watershed level crossing management that meets the needs of all affected regulators while providing industry with the incentive and the flexibility needed to minimize non-compliance through first focusing remediation efforts on priority crossings.
Erosion causing sediment deposition or imminent to cause deposition into fish habitat is an urgent environmental issue directly affecting fish health and reproduction. All sediment deposition is high priority and must be stopped and remediated upon discovery.
The RWCP is coordinated across regulators and crossing owners through a system of governance that includes:
- regulatory steering committee
- stakeholder advisory committee
- project-specific task teams
- development of a shared data management solution
The RWCP supports and enables the development of self-inspection systems by crossing owners, and regular regulatory reporting, as the regulators transition from a system of inspection to a role as auditors.
The guiding legislation for the RWCP includes:
- Roadway Watercourse Crossings Remediation Directive
Please note: the Directive is currently being updated to reflect currency in language, in particular to reflect multiple service providers.
- Roadway Watercourse Crossing Inspection Manual
- Code of Practice for Watercourse Crossings (PDF, 401 KB)
- Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act
- Fisheries (Alberta) Act
- Public Lands Act
- Species at Risk Act (Government of Canada)
- Water Act
- Why Did the Fish Cross the Road? How the AER is helping to protect fish species in Alberta’s Foothills
- West Central Stakeholders Newsletter. Spring 2018. Why Did the Fish Cross the Road?
- Keep Them Swimming Upstream. Inspecting road crossings help protect fish and their ecosystems
What crossing owners need to know
What is the scope of the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Program (RWCP)?
The program covers crossing owners defined as holders of formal dispositions, approvals, or authorizations for a watercourse crossing under, but not limited to the Public Lands Act, Forests Act, and/or Water Act who must conduct regular inspections of crossings for which they are responsible, and report crossings that do not comply with the legislation and/or authorizations to their respective regulator.
As a crossing owner, how do I get involved?
Review the Roadway Watercourse Crossings Remediation Directive and determine if you wish to participate in the voluntary watershed planning approach (contact the appropriate regulator), or if you will simply develop your own inspection, remediation, and reporting program.
How do I get started on an inspection program?
Determine if your organization has the interest and capacity to conduct the inspections by trained individuals on the inspection protocol, or if you wish to utilize a service provider. Service providers must be recognized by the regulators.
Is there an inspection standard?
All inspections must adhere to the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Inspection Manual. Inspectors must be trained by qualified individuals internally capable of conducting these inspections or by a training provider.
How do I report my inspection results?
A self-disclosure data portal is under design. In the interim, please contact the appropriate regulator for a submission template.
Will the regulator use my submitted inspection data to commence compliance action?
Non-compliant crossings are required to be reported to the appropriate regulator as per legislation requirements. It is expected crossing owners will use their inspection information to plan and communicate to the regulators necessary remediation to regain compliance.
If I am participating voluntarily as per the Roadway Watercourse Crossings Remediation Directive, submitting my inspection information to the regulator, and contributing to submission of watershed remediation plans, will my crossings be inspected by the regulator?
The Directive outlines a new regulatory strategy to identify and commence remedial watercourse crossing work to provide fish passage and regulatory compliance in priority order and with clear consideration of watershed conservation and management goals. Remedial efforts will be undertaken on a scheduled basis dependent on risk assessment.
Regulators may conduct random spot check inspections of crossings to ensure crossing owners are following the inspection manual protocol and collecting data accurately. Once crossings have been remediated, inspections may take place during the remediation activity and / or shortly after construction completion to ensure the crossing meets all regulatory requirements.
Any crossing, at any time, may be inspected for sediment, as sediment deposition into a watercourse is an urgent environmental concern that must be managed proactively, and repaired upon discovery.
How can I ensure my new, or replacement crossings, are acceptable?
All crossings (installation, maintenance, replacement or removal) must adhere to all pieces of legislative requirements as well as to ensure all necessary approvals are obtained. This may include:
- Public Lands Act and associated dispositions
- Water Act
- Water Act Approvals
- Code of Practice for Watercourse Crossings and all other associated legislation
The requirements in the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Inspection Manual must also be met. This is not an exhaustive list of all legislation and the crossing owner must ensure that all requirements are met as well as all necessary approvals are obtained.
To connect with the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Program:
Wendy Giamberardino, Alberta Environment and Parks
Jody Foster, Alberta Energy Regulator