High Falls and Manitou Falls Hydroelectric Project Description

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Appendix B
Proposed Baseline Environmental Field Investigation

Based on the Hatch team’s familiarity with existing documentation, knowledge of the project area and experience with similar projects, a series of data collection programs are proposed to fill information gaps identified during the preliminary assessment of potential effects and through discussion with agency personnel. It is understood that baseline data collection requirements will be finalized after review of existing information, reviewed/confirmed by the agencies prior to implementation of the program, and may be adjusted as necessary. The following programs are currently being considered:

  • water quality
  • fish community/fish habitat
  • terrestrial community/habitat.

    The following provides a brief description of each anticipated program.

    Surface Water Quality
    A baseline water quality monitoring program is proposed to supplement existing water quality information for the Pic River. The program will involve sampling water quality three times during the year (spring, summer and fall, typically during 25th, 50th and 75th percentile flow events) at a number of locations including

  • a control location upstream of the proposed High Falls head pond (i.e., outside of influence of the project)
  • within the proposed High Falls head pond
  • within the proposed Manitou Falls head pond
  • downstream from Manitou Falls.

    Parameters to be analyzed at each location include

  • pH
  • water temperature
  • dissolved oxygen
  • alkalinity
  • hardness
  • conductivity
  • total suspended solids (TSS)
  • total dissolved solids (TDS)
  • turbidity
  • dissolved organic carbon (DOC)
  • total organic carbon (TOC)
  • nitrogen (NO2, NO3, ammonia, TKN)
  • phosphorus
  • metals
  • chloride
  • sulphate
  • low-level methyl and total mercury.

    Dissolved oxygen and water temperature profiling would also be conducted at each of the sampling sites (as depth conditions allow) during the sample collections. Results would be documented in one data report at the end of the sampling program.

    The following sections identify the baseline fisheries field investigation programs that are being proposed. The programs are based on those outlined in the POD.

    Spring 2010 Studies
    The MNR SDP notes that walleye spawning sites have been noted at Manitou Falls. Walleye spawning may also be occurring at Middle Falls and High Falls. Spring spawning surveys will be conducted in 2010 to assess utilization of potential spawning habitat at these areas. Methodologies proposed will include short set gill netting (with a variety of mesh sizes including large mesh targeting lake sturgeon), trap netting and angling. The goal will be to capture fish during the spawning period and determine presence/absence and their gonad status (as input to potential spawning locations). Potential spawning habitats will be assessed to determine suitability for spawning based on known preferences for particular habitat features. Assessment methodologies may include water depth and flow velocity measurements and underwater camera use to document substrate. Egg mats will be used to confirm the presence of spawning in suitable habitats. Other fish species captured during the assessment will be noted to document spring habitat utilization for those species.

    The SDP notes that rainbow trout have been documented in the Pic River and that rainbow trout spawning has been noted at Middle Falls and potential spawning habitat exists at Manitou Falls. Rainbow trout spawning surveys will be conducted in the study area to ascertain if and where spawning occurs. Surveys during spawning would involve the enumeration of spawning fish in suitable habitats. All walleye, lake sturgeon, rainbow trout collected during the spring spawning survey will be floy tagged with an individually numbered tag and live released. Aging structures (scales and a secondary aging structure) will be collected from these fish.

    Summer 2010 Studies
    A fish habitat and fish community study is proposed during summer 2010. Aquatic habitat surveys will be conducted on both a macro scale to broadly identify and delineate the range of habitat conditions throughout the study area (i.e., downstream from Manitou Falls to upstream from the High Falls head pond), and on a site-specific scale to document micro-habitat features that may represent significant or critical habitat features (e.g., spawning and nursery habitats, critical foraging habitats). Macro-scale surveys will be conducted using the standard shoreline cruise methodology, while detailed mapping and habitat analysis/assessment will occur at potentially critical habitat areas (e.g., spawning beds, rapids/riffles, impassable waterfalls, small coldwater tributaries). Fish habitat features will be mapped on Ontario Base Maps and representative photographs will be taken to document existing fish habitat features.

    A fish species inventory is proposed for the study area to document species presence/absence and site specific relative abundance. The primary fish community assessment methodology will be a Riverine Index Netting (RIN) Study, conducted in accordance with the updated Riverine Index Netting Manual of Instructions (Jones and Yunker, 2009). The RIN study will consist of the deployment of specially designed RIN gillnets (including small, large and extra large mesh size nets as documented in the manual) throughout the study area during one sampling period in August. The intent of the survey will be to assess the small and large bodied fish population of the study area. The RIN will extend from upstream of the proposed High Falls head pond to approximately 5 km downstream from the Manitou Falls site to incorporate the entire study area. We are proposing to set 50 nets, in accordance with the number of nets suggested in the RIN manual (subject to approval from MNR/DFO).

    In addition to the RIN net, large bodied fish, including walleye, northern pike, lake sturgeon, and possibly rainbow trout, will be captured using angling and trap net methodologies. The intent will be to catch as many adult fish as possible in an effort to collect fish that were tagged during the spring studies to determine any movements that may have occurred throughout the river system. This information could form the basis for further discussions regarding fish passage requirements at Manitou Falls.

    Fall 2010 Studies
    In conjunction with the fall water quality sampling program, we are proposing to collect baitfish for tissue mercury analysis in order to meet the usual MOE requirements for such baseline data. We propose to collect 5 replicates of 10 baitfish (e.g., shiners) at a total of 5 sites throughout the study area. Fish will be collected by seining, minnow trapping and small mesh gill netting. The fish will be analyzed for total mercury content.

    During this same sampling trip, we also propose to undertake a preliminary fall spawning survey in the study area to assess the presence/absence of spawning brook trout and/or other fall spawning salmonids in the project area. We would undertake a visual assessment of potential spawning areas (gravel beds) to determine if redds and/or spawning fish are present.

    The results of the seasonal fisheries investigations would be documented in one data report in late fall 2010.

    Terrestrial components under investigation during baseline data collection include

  • vegetation communities
  • avifaunal communities
  • mammal communities
  • herpetofaunal (reptile and amphibian) communities.

    Vegetation Communities
    Following completion of the background information review, habitat types in the study area will be mapped through interpretation of aerial photography/satellite imagery, where available. Within the head pond (as applicable) and along portions of new access road and site structures, vegetation communities will be classified according to the standardized Forest Ecosystem Classification for Northwestern Ontario (Sims et al, undated). A shoreline cruise will be used to assess riparian communities to the upstream extent of the head pond, and several vegetation plots will be surveyed to assess the potential presence of any vulnerable species. Based on known range maps of vegetation species listed on either the federal Species at Risk Act, or the provincial Endangered Species Act, no vegetation Species at Risk are expected within the study area. Where possible, the knowledge of vegetation in the study area will be expanded during other tasks or discipline fieldwork (e.g. breeding bird surveys).

    Avifaunal Communities
    Existing information relating to bird communities (such as Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas results) will be supplemented with a breeding bird survey, consisting of a combination of point counts and area searches, which will be performed along the access roads, around the proposed project locations and along the length of the proposed head ponds. The breeding bird survey will be conducted in June 2010. The result of this survey will provide detailed information on bird communities within the study area and will allow a determination of the possibility of occurrence of Species at Risk, or Partners In Flight Priority Species.

    Any sitings of bald eagles within the project area by field crews will be documented. Bald eagles are currently listed as Special Concern on the provincial Endangered Species Act.

    Mammal Communities
    Mammal species potentially found in the study area will be documented using

  • Mammal Atlas for Ontario (Dobbyn 1994) and discussion with MNR
  • provincial and federal status information
  • existing population trends, seasonal habitat use (e.g., denning) to determine potential occurrence for mammalian Species at Risk in the area
  • opportunistic observation of mammal species and their scat, tracks or antlers observed during other discipline investigation (i.e. breeding bird surveys).

    In addition, during vegetation community mapping, the potential occurrence of specific wildlife habitat features, such as moose aquatic feeding areas, will be considered.

    The project area is located within the zone of discontinuous distribution for woodland caribou, a threatened species on both the federal Species at Risk Act and the provincial Endangered Species Act. Though caribou are not expected to be present, suitable habitat for caribou use will be mapped during vegetation community mapping. In addition, any observation of caribou within the study area will be noted.

    Herpetofaunal Community
    Reptile and amphibian species potentially found in the study area will be updated/documented using

  • Climatic Domain Maps for Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario (McKenney et al., 2007), the Ontario Herpetofauna Summary Atlas (Oldham and Weller 2000) and discussion with the MNR staff
  • provincial and federal status information
  • existing population trends, seasonal habitat use (e.g., hibernacula)
  • opportunistic observation of reptiles and amphibian species observed during other discipline investigation (i.e. breeding bird survey).

    Based on known range maps of reptile and amphibian species listed on either the federal Species at Risk Act, or the provincial Endangered Species Act, none are expected within the study area.

    Terrestrial investigations would be undertaken in early summer (June) when breeding birds are present within the project area. The results of the terrestrial investigations would be documented in a separate data report.

    Archaeological Resources
    Potential heritage and cultural resource considerations will be addressed by our licensed archaeologist subconsultant, Boreal Heritage Consulting, who will conduct a Stage 1 Archaeological Assessment of the study area. The Stage 1 Assessment will involve a background search of historical documents and the Ministry of Culture’s (MoC) database to identify any registered or unregistered heritage sites within the study area. Based on the findings presented in the Stage 1 report, areas with significant archaeological potential may require field investigation (i.e., Stage 2 study) prior to construction.

  • High Falls and Manitou Falls Project
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