Community Access Road Project Update
The intent of our project newsletter is to describe and explain current and ongoing activities being done by the Marten Falls First Nation (MFFN) Community Access Road Project Team, and to answer common questions that come up as the environmental assessment (EA) moves forward.
Over the summer months we have been working on two key Environmental Assessment (EA) documents, the Project Description (PD) and the Terms of Reference (ToR) and have been conducting baseline studies, including geotechnical work.
The PD is a document prepared as part of the federal EA process and is used by the government to decide whether a federal EA is needed for a project. MFFN has submitted a PD to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). After a 10-day review period, MFFN was notified that the PD was considered complete by CEAA and CEAA released the PD for a 20-day public review to obtain feedback on the PD under CEAA 2012.
On August 28, 2019, the new federal EA legislation called the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) came into force and CEAA became known as the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC). The Community Access Road Project has transitioned into the IAA process. The PD previously prepared is now considered the Initial PD in the IAA process and it marks the start of the 180-day Early Planning Phase. The Initial PD was released for public review by IAAC for a second 20-day comment period under the IAA process.
Glossary of Terms
Impact Assessment Act: New legislation and associated policies and regulations that replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (2012). The Impact Assessment Act came into force on August 28, 2019 and has changed how federal environmental assessment are done.
Geotechnical Engineering: A branch of civil engineering that deals with soil and rock behaviour. It is concerned with the analysis, design and construction of foundations, slopes, retaining structures and other systems that are made of or supported by soil and rock.
Aggregate Resources: Sand, gravel, clay, earth and bedrock that are used to make roads and other structures. Aggregates that are loose materials are removed from a pit and solid rock is removed from a quarry. Aggregate resource are governed by the Aggregate Resources Act (1990) and associated regulations and, is administered by the Ministry of Natural Resource and Forestry.
The IAAC has provided the Community Access Road Project Team with a Summary of Issues received during both comment periods. The Community Access Road Project Team must respond to the Summary of Issues and incorporate the feedback into a Detailed Project Description. The Detailed PD will be used by IAAC to determine if an impact assessment is required and to support the planning of the impact assessment (IA). For more information on the new IAA process online see: https://www.canada.ca/en/impact-assessment-agency/services/policy-guidance/impact-assessment-process-overview.html
For up to date information from IAAC about the Marten Falls Community Access Road Project or if you wish to reach out directly to IAAC, you can do so at any time on the IAAC project specific website at: https://iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/proj/80184?culture=en-CA.
Terms of Reference
In past newsletters, we described the Terms of Reference (ToR) as a ‘road map’ that describes the work that the proponent has planned through the provincial EA Process. Consultation is a required component of developing the ToR. The Community Access Road Project Team has been reaching out to 22 First Nations, the public and other stakeholders, requested by the Province, to provide information and receive feedback to be incorporated into the ToR. Through consultation it became apparent there has been a shift in the preferred corridor. Based on the May 2017 Project Proposal prepared by MFFN, the preferred corridor for a community access road was a route that followed the winter road before turning north and running along the eastern edge of the Ogoki River. The May 2017 proposal was developed assuming there would be two separate roads constructed to keep industrial and community traffic apart: one a community access road used only to access Marten Falls and, one an industrial road to the area known as the Ring of Fire. However, this assumption was proved wrong in August 2017 when the Province informed MFFN that they would only fund one multipurpose road.
Once informed that only one multipurpose road would be built, the community had different concerns. The community still wanted to proceed with a road and was starting the planning needed to begin an environmental assessment for a community access road. As consultation progressed following the announcement of a single multipurpose road, community members began to identify concerns with having a multipurpose road follow along the east side of the Ogoki River. Some of the reasons the western routes are preferred over the eastern routes include:
- The bridge to cross the Albany would be located away from the community if the western route is constructed. MFFN is concerned for children’s safety if the bridge is located near the community as children may play on it or try to jump off it.
- Traffic would not pass through the community and MFFN could have greater control over who enters the community if the western route is constructed. MFFN is concerned for community member health and safety particularly around illegal substances entering the community and other risks traffic passing through the community may present.
- The cost to construct and maintain a road along the western route alternatives is lower than the eastern alternatives. The western route alternatives are generally located on higher rocky ground and closer to the aggregate needed to build and maintain a road. Water management and diverting water away from a road built along the eastern routes would also be challenging. Given limited high ground, the road would have the Ogoki River on one side, muskeg on the other and nowhere for the water to go.
- MFFN is concerned about further environmental damage to the Ogoki River which has already been impacted by upstream dams. Numerous culverts and bridges would need to be installed to cross streams that are known sensitive fish habitat if the road is built along the east side of the Ogoki River. Culverts make it difficult for fish to pass through.
In August 2019, MFFN Chief and Council passed a band council resolution indicating that the western route alternatives are preferred and that the eastern routes are not viable for the community. As a result of the decision to only carry the western route alternatives forward into the EA process, the alternative screening process in the ToR is no longer necessary but the outcome is still the same – only two routing options are assessed in the EA. The purpose of the alternative screening process was to narrow down the number of routes assessed in the EA. At this time, AECOM is working to revise the ToR document to reflect that the EA will assess the western routing alternatives only and as a result the release of a Draft ToR has been delayed.
We anticipate the release of a Draft ToR document along with a summary guide in plain language later this fall for review and comment by first nations, public, other stakeholders and regulators. The summary guide of the ToR is intended to help those without a technical background understand the content of the ToR. Any feedback received from the Draft ToR review period will be incorporated into the final version of the ToR document before it is submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Parks (MECP).
For up to date information from MECP about the Marten Falls Community Access Road Project or if you wish to reach out to MECP directly, you can do so at any time on the MECP project specific website at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/marten-falls-community-access-road-project.
Keep Watch For
Release of the Draft Terms of Reference document and Draft ToR guide this fall!
Copies will be made available on our website, at the band office and satellite office and at public information sessions.
Marten Falls Traditional Anishinabek Knowledge
The Community Access Road Project Team and AECOM have been working with the Marten Falls Community Based Land Use Planning (CBLUP) Team to incorporate MFFN Traditional Anishinabek Knowledge (ATK) into the Community Access Road Provincial EA and Federal IA. A subset of the existing digital ATK dataset only covering the Community Access Road project area has been provided to AECOM. No ATK information from the area known as the Ring of Fire has been provided to AECOM.
As part of the ATK program on this project, Bob Baxter and another community member completed site visits with the geotechnical team to ensure valued sites were not disturbed by clear cutting for helicopter pads and drilling work. AECOM was also instructed by the CBLUP team to avoid areas of shared territory with Aroland First Nation until Aroland has a chance to weigh in on whether valued sites exist in areas that will be investigated. Of concern are the Ogoki River crossings at the south end of our project area.
If you wish to provide ATK information for incorporation into the Community Access Road project, please reach out to the MFFN CBLUP team. The CBLUP team will gladly receive your ATK information and cross-reference with the existing data base to determine if it is new information or, if the values have been previously recorded. If it is new information, the CBLUP will take the appropriate steps to record it following their ATK collection process. We will not solicit or collect ATK during community meetings. Any information we receive voluntarily will be forwarded to the CBLUP team for review before being incorporated into the environmental assessment.
Baseline Scientific Studies & Engineering
Throughout the summer and up until freeze up, AECOM and their subconsultants will be conducting baseline studies, including geotechnical engineering work to characterize the existing environmental conditions. The baseline scientific studies look at the environment from a broad range of scientific disciplines from surveys of air and noise conditions, to existing plants and animal species, species at risk and fish habitat in the project area. Most of these studies do not cause significant disturbance to the environment as they are done by looking and listening. The studies will form the basis for the description of the existing environment in both the provincial environmental assessment and federal impact assessment.
At the same time, engineers have been looking at ground conditions along the identified corridors to locate a road right of way, aggregate resources and develop a preliminary design of the road and structures needed for water crossings. The geotechnical work is an example of a baseline activity that can cause more disturbance to the land. Helicopter landing pads needed to be cleared and hand dug and/or machine drilled boreholes were advanced to assess the depth of muskeg, potential aggregate sources, and to characterize the ground conditions where water crossing structure will be built. In addition, AECOM is planning a value engineering workshop where their engineering specialist will follow a specific process to look at potential costs savings and innovations with the intent of improving the overall design of the road.
Upcoming newsletters will provide more details on the baseline work done and the technical reports being prepared by AECOM. If you have any questions about the baseline study or engineering work, please contact the Community Access Road Project Team and will seek out the appropriate specialist on our team to provide you an answer. You can reach us by email at email@example.com or by phone at 1-800-764-9114.