Community Access Road Project Update
The intent of our project newsletter is to describe and explain current and ongoing activities by the Marten Falls First Nation (MFFN) Community Access Road (CAR) Project Team, and to answer common questions that come up as the provincial environmental assessment (EA) and federal impact assessment (IA) moves forward. For the most up to date information, visit our website at www.martenfallsaccessroad.ca. If you have questions, please reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 1-800-764-9114.
Coordinating the EA/IA Processes
In consideration of funding and legislated timelines, the coordination and scheduling of the federal IA and the provincial EA processes for the MFFN CAR project generally falls into the hands of the proponent. Currently, the IA process is ahead of the EA as shown in the Figure 1 below. The IA process will remain ahead of the EA process until a Proposed ToR is submitted to Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and a decision is made. After the Minister’s decision is received, the provincial and federal processes will both be in their respective assessment phases.
MECP generally does not complete a technical review of Study Plans in advance of Terms of Reference submission, to ensure that both the provincial and federal technical experts are reviewing the same versions of the study plan documents, MECP has agreed to review Study Plans at the same time as the Impact
Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC). Study Plans are documents that outline how we plan to collect baseline information and analyze it during the environmental assessment. MECP and IAAC have begun a coordinated technical review of the Study Plans. This is in line with the coordinated process, where a single Environmental Assessment/Impact Statement report that will satisfy both the provincial EA process and federal IA process will be prepared. The next major phase of coordinated government technical review will happen once the draft EA & Impact Statement is complete.
Provincial Individual Environmental Assessment Update
On February 7, 2020, the review period for the draft Terms of Reference (ToR) for the MFFN Community Access Road Project closed. AECOM has compiled all feedback from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ministry of the Environment Climate Change and Parks (MECP), Ministry of Energy Northern Development and Mines, several First Nation communities and other stakeholders into a table of concerns and proposed responses. The MFFN Community Access Road Project Team has reviewed the proposed responses and provided feedback. Currently, AECOM is working to incorporate the Project Team’s feedback, and could reach out to those who provided comment if clarification or follow up is required. Next step is to prepare the Proposed ToR that will be submitted to MECP for their official review and decision. First Nations and interested persons will have the opportunity to comment on the Proposed ToR through MECP’s review process. The EA does not officially start until a ToR approval decision is received by MECP.
Coordination the Process and Timelines
In consideration of funding and legislated timelines, the coordination and scheduling of the federal IA and the provincial EA processes for the MFFN Community Access Road Project generally falls into the hands of the proponent. This has been further complicated by the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) coming into force. The IAA process is new for everyone – regulators and proponents. Currently, the IA process is ahead of the EA as shown in the graphic below. The EA and IA process timelines will remain offset until a Proposed ToR is submitted to MECP and a decision is made. More information on project timelines is coming soon.
Federal Impact Assessment (IA) Process
Provincial Environmental Assessment (EA) Process
AECOM has prepared responses to all comments submitted through the Draft ToR public comment period. First Nations who submitted comments had the opportunity to review and discuss our proposed responses if desired.
All 22 First Nations we must engage with received a copy of their community specific record of consultation for review. The primary purpose of the review was to allow First Nations the opportunity to identify sensitive information to be protected from the public record.
All feedback received by July 10, 2020 will be included in the ToR that is scheduled to be submitted to MECP later this fall. Feedback received after July 10, 2020 will be addressed during the EA. Once submitted for review, MECP will facilitate a comment period on the Proposed ToR.
Study Plans provide the road map for how data will be collected and analyzed to characterize baseline conditions for specific valued components. Study Plans are technical documents written to allow the regulators to assess whether our planned studies are sufficient to meet federal and provincial requirements.
In total we have 20 Study Plans listed in the table below with a high-level description of each plan. The Study Plans, like the environment, are all interconnected, and data collected under one study plan may be part of another study plan. This is particularly true for the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Interests and Consultation programs which will document indigenous knowledge and feedback and convey the information to technical disciplines for incorporation into the provincial EA and federal IA processes. Our primary means to communicate to First Nations and stakeholders is through our consultation program and communication leads.
Baseline Study versus Affects Assessment
Currently, we continue to develop Study Plans and collect and document information to describe the environment in the project area as you see it today – the baseline. Once we have a baseline for the project area as it is now, AECOM will make comparisons to the baseline to assess and describe the potential effects of the road to each of the valued components outlined in the Study Plans – the affects assessment. After the effects of the project are identified work can
begin to look for ways to avoid or minimize the adverse effects on each valued component and maximize benefits of the project. Although we know there is a long history of western societies impacts on the landscape in the project area as shown in the timeline below, the purpose of this EA/IA is to focus on describing what is there now and how it will change if the road is constructed. It is important to understand that we will have limited ability to look at effects of past activities like the dams and future projects like mines. Cumulative impacts can only be assessed for reasonably foreseeable projects with publicly available information and the full impacts of mining are best left to individual mine proponents and their experts.
What does this all mean to a grassroots project follower?
AECOM and the Project Team have been working with MFFN to develop the Terms of Reference document for nearly two years. We engaged with Marten Falls First Nation membership in Ogoki and Thunder Bay throughout the development to present and ask for feedback on the content of the document before the public release of the Draft Terms of Reference in the spring. Although the release of a draft was not a regulatory requirement, the idea was that more feedback early in the planning process would produce a better document overall. After the draft comment period, we followed up with First Nations again in the summer to see if there were any further comments or to provide them the opportunity to review our responses to their comments. Since the end of the draft comment period, AECOM has made revisions and prepared a Proposed Terms of Reference document ready for submission to the MECP. The revisions that have been made are based on feedback received from First Nations, other stakeholders, and regulators. These revisions have been endorsed by the Project Team, community members and consultant advisors and are being presented to MFFN Chief and Council prior to submission and public release.
The Proposed Terms of Reference document and supporting materials are roughly 700 pages and written in a technical language meant to satisfy regulatory requirements. We have videos, fact sheets and a plain language guide that provide key information about the status of the project and content of the Terms of Reference which will be available on the project website.
Notices will be sent out to those on our distribution list to inform First Nations, public and other stakeholders that our Proposed Terms of Reference has been submitted. MECP will facilitate a public review period during which questions and comments will be accepted by MECP. You can submit questions and comments directly to the Project Team at any time. The Project Team is open to receiving feedback throughout the process to guide our thinking and decision making. However, feedback will only be formally incorporated into documents at key milestones as outlined in the consultation plan for the environmental and impact assessments.