Overview

Poorly constructed watercourse crossings result in fragmented fish habitat, disrupting the ability of fish to feed, spawn and seek cover from predators. Erosion causing sediment deposition into fish habitat is an urgent environmental issue directly affecting fish health and reproduction.

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 and are 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 Watercourse Crossing Program (WCP) is for all regulated parties within a watershed to coordinate remediation to address fish passage issues at a watershed level. The focus of this work is to eliminate fish passage problems caused by poorly constructed and maintained watercourse crossings in Alberta.

The WCP is a component of an integrated provincial fisheries management approach, linked to a number of other fish species recovery and aquatic habitat conservation initiatives.

Read more about it in the following articles:

How the program works

The program uses fish species and population data, a common inspection standard, and a risk-based remedial approach to improve fish passage at a watershed level.

Regulators work together to identify and prioritize remedial needs while providing crossing owners the flexibility needed to focus remediation efforts on priority crossings. Risk assessments and watershed prioritization are key tools to ensure remedial work is coordinated across the regulated sectors.

The WCP is coordinated across regulators and crossing owners through a system of governance that includes:

  • regulatory steering committee
  • stakeholder advisory committees
  • project-specific task teams
  • development of a shared data management solution
  • Detailing the work of Alberta's Watercourse Crossing Program, which coordinates the remediation of watercourse crossing to improve fish habitat.

How to participate

The Roadway Watercourse Crossing Remediation Directive (currently under review in 2019) outlines a strategy for collaborative watershed-based approach to inspections and remediation of non-compliant crossings. It is a new regulatory strategy to identify and commence remedial watercourse crossing work to provide fish passage and regulatory compliance, and considers:

  • priority order
  • watershed conservation and management goals
  • remedial efforts undertaken on a scheduled basis dependent on risk assessment
  • protecting or restoring fisheries habitat through effective watercourse crossing practices

Crossing owners can become involved by developing their own watercourse crossing inspection programs. Additional information for crossing owners can be found in the WCP fact sheet (PDF, 1.2 MB).

What crossing owners need to know

What is the scope of the WCP?

The program covers all crossing owners in the province. Watercourse crossings are subject to regulatory requirements under the Water Act, the Public Lands Act, the Code of Practice for Watercourse Crossings, and their respective authorizations.

This is not an exhaustive list of all legislation and crossing owners must comply with all provincial and federal statutes applicable to their watercourse crossings.

The legislation requires crossing owners to monitor and report crossings that are in contravention with the acts. Participation in the WCP requires inspections be completed on all crossings within each Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 8 watershed provincially, and that the data be submitted to the regulator to coordinate remediation planning at a watershed scale.

As a crossing owner, how do I get involved?

Review the Roadway Watercourse Crossings Remediation Directive (currently under review in 2019). Contacts for Alberta Environment and Parks and the Alberta Energy Regulator are listed below for more information on the directive and inspection requirements.

How do I get started on an inspection program?

Review the inspection program standards. Inspections must meet the standards set by the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Inspection Manual. Crossing owners may conduct their own inspections or retain a third party service provider to conduct the inspections on their behalf. Service providers must be recognized by the regulators.

Is there an inspection standard?

All inspections must adhere to the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Inspection Manual. Those conducting inspections must be trained by qualified individuals. Qualified individuals may be an internal employee that is trained or a recognized service provider.

How do I report my inspection results?

The reporting portal and data management system differs between regulators. Watercourse crossing inspections must contain all of the data fields referenced in the Roadway Watercourse Crossing Inspection Manual and inspection form.

The submission of both compliant and non-compliant crossing inspections is required to ensure that remediation activities are planned at a watershed scale. Alberta Environment and Parks is currently utilizing a secure FTP site for crossing owners to upload data into a database.

If you require further information on the data requirements, please contact the appropriate regulator representative below.

Will the regulator use my submitted inspection data to commence compliance action?

Reporting non-compliance is a regulatory obligation under the acts. The legislated requirement requires the crossing owner to submit a report to the regulator.

The WCP builds on this regulatory requirement by coordinating remedial actions to ensure issues encountered within a watershed are prioritized and remediated to restore fish health and passage.

Correcting the non-compliance is the desired outcome, however failure to comply may result in an escalating enforcement response.

If I am participating voluntarily in the WCP submitting my inspection information to the regulator, and contributing to submission of watershed remediation plans, will my crossings be inspected by the regulator?

The regulator may conduct random inspections of crossings to verify the accuracy of inspection data. The regulator may conduct inspections at any time to verify compliance with regulatory requirements.

How can I ensure my new, or replacement crossings, are acceptable?

Crossings must adhere to the legislated requirements throughout their lifecycle (installation, maintenance, replacement or removal). This may include requirements under the Public Lands Act, the Water Act, the Code of Practice for Watercourse Crossings, and their respective authorizations.

This is not an exhaustive list of all legislation and crossing owners must comply with all provincial and federal statutes applicable to their watercourse crossings.

Resources

Legislation

The guiding legislation for the WCP includes:

Contact

To connect with the Watercourse Crossing Program:

Wendy Giamberardino, Alberta Environment and Parks
Email: wendy.giamberardino@gov.ab.ca

Jody Foster, Alberta Energy Regulator
Email: aer.wcc@aer.ca