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From the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to Pacific NorthWest LNG Ltd. re: information request related to March 4, 2016 proponent submission

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
PO Box 10114
701 West Georgia Street
Suite 410
Vancouver, British Columbia
V7Y 1C6

Agence canadienne d'evaluation environnementale
Boite postale
701 rue Georgia ouest
Vancouver (Colombie-Britannique)
V7Y 1C6

March 18, 2016

Mr. Mike Lambert
Head, Environment and Regulatory Affairs
Pacific NorthWest LNG ltd.
Oceanic Plaza, Suite 1900
1066 West Hastings Street
Vancouver BC V6E 3X1

Dear Mr. Lambert:

Thank you for the comments and information submitted by Pacific NorthWest LNG ltd. (PNW LNG) to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) on March 4, 2016. The effort undertaken by PNW LNG to review the draft Environmental Assessment Report and potential conditions for the Pacific NorthWest LNG Project (the Project) and provide detailed comments is appreciated.

The Agency has carefully considered PNW LNG's submission, in consultation with expert federal departments including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Health Canada. The Agency also considered comments from Aboriginal groups and the public regarding the ecological value and importance of the marine environment and fish habitat including Flora Bank in the project area. The Skeena River watershed is one of the largest and most diverse wild salmon watersheds in the world, and is second only to the Fraser River in its capacity to produce sockeye salmon. All available science and information is being taken into account in the environmental assessment, recognizing the importance of understanding what is required to protect this ecologically and biologically significant habitat.

The Agency is of the view that a number of PNW LNG's suggestions, such as adjusting the timing limitations for tree clearing on Lelu Island while avoiding impacts to bats, can be addressed in the finalization of the Environmental Assessment Report and potential conditions.

PNW LNG has indicated that some of the key mitigations and potential conditions that the Agency has proposed to avoid or reduce significant adverse environmental effects to fish and fish habitat and marine mammals are not feasible.

The new and more detailed information you provided related to construction activities in the marine environment and on Lelu Island has given rise to several new areas of uncertainty which need to be taken into account in determining the Project's effects on fish and fish habitat, marine mammals, human health, and current Aboriginal use of lands and resources for traditional purposes.

Consequently, the Agency is requesting information from PNW LNG, as outlined below, to address the identified areas of uncertainty including how it intends to mitigate any adverse effects. Further background and details are provided in the attached March 15, 2015 correspondence from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and from Natural Resources Canada.

Effects of marine construction activities on fish and fish habitat and marine mammals

PNW LNG states in the March 4, 2016 submission to the Agency that in-water construction must generally be able to proceed on a continuous basis, night and day. This differs from the Agency's previous understanding based on PNW LNG's earlier submissions with regard to the continuous nature of construction, the scale of light and noise, and the methods and mitigations associated with construction of the marine jetty. PNW LNG has also suggested changes to the proposed conditions commenting that some are not technically or economically feasible and others should be applied on a more discretionary basis. With these proposed changes, there is uncertainty regarding the effects of light, noise, and sediment erosion and deposition resulting from in-water construction to fish and fish habitat and marine mammals.

The Agency requests that PNW LNG provide an assessment of the effects of light and noise to fish and marine mammals arising from all in-water marine construction activities. Further, the Agency requests an assessment of the effects of the marine vessel fleet and the coffer dams during marine construction, on sediment erosion and deposition and associated effects to fish and fish habitat, and how PNW LNG plans to mitigate those effects.

This assessment must include:

  • A detailed work plan and schedule for construction of the marine jetty (suspension bridge, trestle and berths):
    • List of in-water construction activities and locations, the months and number of hours in a 24-hour day that such activities are proposed, and whether they would be sequential or simultaneous.
    • Description of the types and number of construction vessels involved in marine construction activities, and any differences between night and day time vessel activities. Include scows, derricks, barges, marine dredgers, utility tugs (specify propulsion type), and small craft vessels.
    • Information about the duration of use and methods of construction and removal of the coffer dams.
  • A description of circumstances and frequency that vibratory pile driving would not be technically feasible other than for pile seating, and the resulting impacts on underwater noise levels.
  • A description of circumstances where bubble curtains and/or isolation casings will be applied as a mitigation measure, and their effectiveness at mitigating underwater noise effects.
  • A description of mitigation measures to be used where bubble curtains and/or isolation casings are not technically or economically feasible, for what activities, and the effectiveness of these other methods at mitigating underwater noise effects.
  • A description of alternatives to marine mammal observers to enable detection of marine mammals near the work area, and the effectiveness of such methods.
  • The frequency and duration of in-water construction activities on a daily, monthly and seasonal basis. Considering the expectation that marine mammals will not enter the safety zone for as long as construction noise continues, include stops and recommencements.
  • If scour protection will not be used around the coffer dams, include high resolution modelling of the scour expected, and how it relates to the erosion rates predicted in PNW LNG's November 2015 report.
  • A discussion of the mitigation measures to manage potential effects of marine construction vessels on water quality and sediment erosion/deposition.
  • An assessment of the combined effects from construction activities (light, noise and potential changes to water quality and sediment erosion/deposition) to fish and fish habitat and marine mammals.

PNW LNG states in the March 4, 2016 submission that the requirement for in-water timing windows would constrain construction activities to a point where marine construction would become unfeasible.

PNW LNG suggests a more flexible condition which would allow construction to proceed year-round with mitigation measures that may include timing windows, subject to Fisheries and Oceans Canada's approval.

Based on PNW LNG's updated fish and marine mammal field data (2015 survey results), describe potential circumstances outside of anticipated least risk timing windows when approval for in-water construction with additional mitigation measures might be sought. Include in your response:

  • Additional mitigation measures that would be proposed to avoid adverse effects during important life stages of fish and marine mammals (e.g. herring spawning and salmon rearing on Flora Bank, eulachon and marine mammal migrations).
  • Based on the updated data, any times when in-water construction activities might not be acceptable, regardless of mitigation applied.

Effects of marine structures on fish habitat including Flora Bank

Concerns raised during the public comment period reference the December 2015 comments from Aboriginal groups suggesting that observed currents over the shallow part of Flora Bank could be greater than the currents simulated in PNW LNG's Delft-3D modelling. These concerns relate to both the accuracy of modelled current speeds over Flora Bank, and the model's omission of rocky outcrops and LNG carriers at the marine berths given their potential effects on waves and tidal currents over Flora Bank.

As a result, the Agency requests that PNW LNG provide information to address these concerns. Federal experts have provided recommendations in the attached comments regarding comprehensive modelling and systematic observations of currents to address these concerns (see Annexes 1 and 2).

Effects of construction noise and light on human health

PNW LNG states in the March 4, 2016 submission that construction is expected to take place during both day and night, and that measures to restrict these activities to minimize noise and light emissions during nighttime hours may not be possible. This is a deviation from earlier submissions that stated that nighttime light emissions would be limited, and that nighttime construction would be limited to low noise activities.

  • The Agency requests that PNW LNG perform a quantitative assessment of nighttime construction noise and associated effects to human health (e.g., sleep disturbance), or advise as to whether daytime acoustic modelling results for construction noise submitted previously would be applicable to nighttime noise levels and associated effects.
  • The Agency requests that PNW LNG indicate how nighttime construction noise and light emissions would be mitigated to ensure no significant adverse effects to human health including the public and Aboriginal peoples.

Effects on current Aboriginal use of lands and resources for traditional purposes

As stated above, PNW LNG has presented information in its March 4, 2016 submission regarding changes to the construction schedule and methods that could affect fish and fish habitat, including marine mammals, and that would increase the amount of light and noise emitted at night. This new information needs to be taken into consideration in the Agency's assessment of the effects of the Project on the preferred location, means and timing of traditional uses, and on Aboriginal perspectives on the importance, uniqueness and overall cultural value of the Project area.

The Agency requests the following information:

  • A description of how the responses to the requests related to fish and fish habitat and marine mammals affect the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Aboriginal peoples.
  • How nighttime construction noise and light emissions would be mitigated to ensure significant adverse effects to current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes are avoided.

In accordance with subsection 27(6) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 the federal timeline within which the Minister of Environment and Climate Change's decisions must be made is paused as of March 18, 2016 and will resume once the Agency determines that the information provided satisfies this information request. Consistent with the Agency's policy on information requests, the Agency may take up to 15 days to determine whether the information request has been satisfied, which does not count against the federal timeline for the environmental assessment.

The Agency is committed to continue working with PNW LNG to complete the environmental assessment in an efficient and effective manner. We will contact you to arrange a follow-up meeting with the Agency and relevant federal experts at your earliest convenience to discuss this information request.


<Original signed by>

Lisa Walls
Regional Director
Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency


Attachments: Annex 1: Letter from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to the Agency, March 15, 2016 (PDF – 2.33 MB)

Annex 2: Letter from Natural Resources Canada to the Agency, March 15, 2016 (PDF – 478  KB)


c.c.: Pacific NorthWest LNG Technical Working Group Members

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