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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An adaptive impact monitoring and management strategy for resource development projects Dushnisky, Kelvin Paul Michael


This thesis advances a conceptual model of adaptive impact monitoring that is designed to overcome many of the criticisms plaguing conventional monitoring strategies. The potential for applying the adaptive model is demonstrated for the Peace River Site C dam proposed for northeastern British Columbia. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) has progressed considerably from its early biophysical orientation to a more comprehensive, interdisciplinary process concerned with the breadth of environmental and socio-economic impacts of development. Impact monitoring, an essential EIA component, has also progressed but in a less innovative fashion. Consequently, conventional monitoring strategies often contain significant deficiencies including insufficient use of past experience, poor monitoring design, and failure to recognize the learning opportunity offered by each project. Adaptive impact monitoring offers significant advantages over traditional strategies. An adaptive strategy is based on a series of impact hypotheses established and tested by an interdisciplinary design team and has two fundamental stages: design and evaluation. A review of the potential environmental impacts of hydroelectric production indicates that the reservoir impact paradigm is beginning to provide a comprehensive basis for assessing development effects. Although the Site C EIA adequately reflects the reservoir impact paradigm, it has three significant weaknesses. First, the potential impacts on downstream ecology and distant downstream users are ill-considered. Second, the potential for increased Site C fisheries parasitism is neglected. Finally, estimates of maximum sustainable yield for the Site C reservoir and Peace River fisheries are unreliable. While opportunities for future impact monitoring were recognized through the Site C panel hearings, they lacked flexibility. The potential impacts on downstream water temperature and fisheries resources are used to illustrate the applicability of the adaptive strategy and the advantages derived from collecting only relevant, statistically credible data to permit testing impact hypotheses in a cost-effective manner. On the basis of these findings, six major policy recommendations are provided for improving the effectiveness of impact monitoring and management for future resource developments.

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