Investigation finds confusion on snowfill bridges and code enforcement

VICTORIA -Agencies that enforce the Forest Practices Code need better communications and a common understanding of how stream crossings should be built for seismic lines to protect fish habitat and water quality, the Forest Practices Board says in a new report.

The report wraps up a special investigation into whether an exploration company complied with the code when it built stream crossings for seismic lines near Fort Nelson in the winter of 1999-2000, and whether government’s enforcement of the code for this activity was appropriate. The board found that the company did not classify streams correctly or follow the approved logging plan. The board found that government enforcement of the code for these activities was not appropriate.

The Ministry of Forests, the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and the Oil and Gas Commission all had some code compliance or enforcement responsibility for seismic line activity. The board found they did not communicate with each other effectively, and there were differing opinions between and within these agencies about how much debris – if any – is acceptable in the snow used to fill stream crossings in winter. The code and code guidebooks contain no standards and advice to determine how much slash and debris can be used without damaging fish habitat or water quality.

“Licensees need clear guidance on acceptable snowfill crossing practices, and code agencies need protocol outlining how they will share code enforcement responsibilities,” said board chair Bill Cafferata. “Without this, licensees may not understand what is expected of them and agencies may not be able to detect problems and ensure sound forest practices.”

The board recommends that the Oil and Gas Commission and the two ministries meet before winter seismic operations begin to address the gaps in communication and enforcement responsibility. The board also recommends government complete the draft guidebook on stream crossings to provide guidance on the issue, and that the Oil and Gas Commission complete its ongoing review of its compliance and enforcement program to clarify roles and responsibilities under the code.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog, established in 1995, that publishes reports about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent.

The board’s main roles under the Forest Practices Code are:

  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Auditing government enforcement of the code.
  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Bill Cafferata

Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

Jacqueline Waldorf

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 387-7964
1 800 994-5899