Proposed Waste Water Treatment Facility at Lakelse Lake Terrestrial Screening Field Assessment

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January 2011 Prepared for: Linda Zurkirchen Cambria Gordon Ltd. #202-4548 Lakelse Ave Terrace, BC V8G 1P8 Prepared by:

B. Pollard, R.P.Bio. and G. Kerr, B.Sc. McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. Suite # 1 – 5008 Pohle Ave.

Terrace BC V8G 4S8

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Executive Summary

The Regional District of Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) is considering several options for waste water treatment for the residents of Lakelse Lake, located approximately 20 km south of Terrace, British Columbia. In assessing the best fit for the area, several factors need to be considered; including the potential for any environmental effects the facility could have. Three forested stands and one wetland system have been selected as candidates for the waste water treatment facility and the location for re-entry of treated effluent into the ecosystem, respectively. McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. (MCSL) was retained by Cambria Gordon Ltd. to assess these four sites for wildlife and ecosystem values. In particular, the potential occurrence of any plants, wildlife, or ecosystem associations classified as red- or blue-listed by the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (CDC) or legally designated for protection under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) was investigated.

The three terrestrial sites were visited on November 12, 2010 and the wetland site was visited on November 15, 2010. The wetland location consisted of several small-scale wetland systems. The areas examined included the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) right-of-way off of First Avenue, the area east of First Ave and south of Lot 2520, and the forested wetland area at the end of Kreston Street. The terrestrial sites included two sites on the east side of Lakelse Lake, one north of Lakelse Lake Lodge Road and west of Highway 37S and one south of Lakelse Lake Lodge Road and west of the highway, herein identified as the northeast and southeast sites, respectively. The other option for the facility structure was located on the west side of Lakelse Lake, approximately 1 km north of the outlet of Lakelse Lake and 500 m west of the junction of Beam Station Road and Catt Point Road and will be referred to as the west site. Evidence of use by wildlife at the wetland location included heavy beaver activity, snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) pellets, moose (Alces alces) browse and tracks and grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) skunk cabbage excavations. Evidence of use by wildlife for all three terrestrial locations included browsed redcedar saplings along the edge of the BC Hydro right-of-way, moose browse on cedar saplings and antler rubs were observed on some aspen trees. The forest structure at the northeast site may lend itself to supporting northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis ssp. laingi). Furthermore, the structure of the forest at the southeast site provides good potential habitat for American marten (Martes americana) and other small mammals. No wildlife sign was observed at the southeast site.

Few issues were identified during the November 2010 field assessment. Red- or blue-listed plant species could not be identified within either the wetland areas or the terrestrial sites during the field assessment due to the timing of the visits. No significant issues were identified within the wetland or terrestrial areas, except for the potential indirect impact on grizzly bears through potential fisheries issues, potential goshawk nesting habitat, and the identification of a blue-listed 03 site series ecosystem. It is recommended that further investigation take place in the spring of 2011 to determine the presence/absence of rare and endangered plant species and to complete northern goshawks call-playback surveys to determine if this species nests within two of the terrestrial candidate areas.

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Table of Contents

Executive Summary ... i

Table of Contents ... ii

Introduction ... 1

Field Assessments ... 2

Wetland Site Assessment ... 2

Terrestrial Sites Assessments ...12

Conclusion ...17

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Introduction

The Regional District of Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) is considering several options for waste water treatment for the residents of Lakelse Lake, located approximately 20 km south of Terrace, British Columbia. In assessing the best fit for the area, several factors need to be considered; including the potential for any environmental effects the facility could have. The RDKS expects to conduct an environmental assessment once the project advances past the current investigative stage.

The RDKS is considering four potential sites located in the vicinity of Lakelse Lake. Three forested sites are being considered by the RDKS for the location of the waste water treatment facility itself (Figure 1: Red areas) and one wetland system has been selected as a candidate for the re-entry of treated effluent into the ecosystem (Figure 1: Purple area).

The purpose of the terrestrial screening assessments was to assess these four sites for wildlife and ecosystem values. In particular, the potential occurrence of any plants, wildlife, or ecosystem associations classified as red- or blue-listed by the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (CDC) or legally designated for protection under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) was to be investigated.

Figure 1: Overview map of proposed Waste Water Treatment Facility at Lakelse Lake. The wetland system of interest is circled in purple. Terrestrial sites are labeled with red boxes.

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Field Assessments

A field assessment was conducted on November 12 and 15, 2010 at the four potential locations, one wetland and three terrestrial, for the proposed waste water treatment facility surrounding Lakelse Lake. Site assessment included identification and classification of ecosystem types, observations on wildlife presence and evidence of use, and the presence/absence of rare and endangered plant species. Photographs were taken to document the results of the field assessment.

Wetland Site Assessment

On November 15, 2010, a MCSL registered professional biologist and a biological technician conducted a field survey of the wetland sites selected for potential re-entry of waste water effluent into the Lakelse Lake watershed. The site was assessed for the presence of any listed wildlife species, ecosystems, or plants. The areas examined included the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) right-of-way off of First Avenue, the area east of First Ave and south of Lot 2520, and the forested wetland area at the end of Kreston Street. These areas are located within the Kalum Forest District and the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine. The area is situated in the submontane variant of the wet submaritime subzone within the Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone (CWHws1) (Ministry of Forests 1993).

The first area visited was adjacent to the MoT right-of-way, locally known as the “as-built” trail, which leaves First Avenue opposite Lot 2637 and travels east toward the Mount Layton Hot Springs Resort (Figure 2). The forest along the right-of-way was primarily composed of pole-sapling and shrub seral stage paper birch (Betula papyrifera), red alder (Alnus rubra), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), with pink spirea or hardhack (Spiraea douglasii ssp. douglasii), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), and bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) in the understory. Haircap moss (Polytrichum sp.), step moss (Hylocomium splendens), running clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum), and arnica (Arnica sp.) were also found adjacent to the trail (Figure 3). The area appeared to have a history of heavy disturbance, with evidence of logging and road building, likely associated with the development of a man-made irrigation or drainage channel surrounding the farmlands near the hot springs (Figure 4).

Northeast of the MoT right-of-way, much of the area consists of a low bench red alder – salmonberry – horsetail (Alnus rubra – Rubus spectabilis – Equisetum arvense) ecosystem. This ecosystem is classified as Fl51 (Ministry of Forests 2004) (Figure 5). The Fl51 was located immediately adjacent to a stream flowing west along the north side of the trail and a wet, conifer-dominated site series, identified as western hemlock – amabilis fir/queen’s cup (Tsuga heterophylla – Abies amabilis/Clintonia uniflora) or site series 05 (Ministry of Forests 1993), occupying areas further from the stream (Figure 6). Red alder, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and paper birch were the dominant tree species, with hardhack and red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) prominent in the shrub layer. Herbaceous vegetation included horsetails (Equisetum arvense), skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), small-flowered bulrush (Scirpus

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microcarpus), bunchberry, and devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus). A considerable amount of beaver activity was noted throughout the area (Figure 7).

East of First Avenue and south of Lot 2520, the wetland appears to be dominated by forested swamp, with 4 to 6 m tall western redcedar, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce forming an open canopy, and common cattail (Typha latifolia) and red-osier dogwood in the understory (Figure 8). Specific classification of the swamp ecosystem could not be conclusively determined due to seasonal die back of vegetation and restricted access to the majority of the wetland; however, the most common forested swamp type found in the CWHws1 is the blue-listed western redcedar – Sitka spruce/skunk cabbage association (Thuja plicata – Picea sitchensis/Lysichiton americanus) and the species that were identified are often found in this ecosystem type. Components of cattail marsh, site series Wm05 (Ministry of Forests 2004), occur immediately adjacent to a small stream running south along the east side of First Avenue (Figure 9). Other herbaceous and shrub species in these areas could not be identified due to winter kill and limited access. Verification of the classification of this wetland system should be carried out in the growing season when identification of other herbs and shrubs can supplement current knowledge.

The final area of the wetland system that was examined was the forested wetland off of the south end of Kreston Street. This forest consisted of stunted lodgepole pine, Sitka spruce, mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), and western redcedar. The understory consisted of Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), deer fern (Blechnum spicant), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), and bunchberry with red sphagnum (Sphagnum lindbergii) present in the raised areas. The raised sites were classified as bog forest, listed as site series 10 (Ministry of Forests 1993) (Figures 10 to 12). Piles of snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) pellets were noted in the area (Figure 13). The forest transitioned to a sedge fen (Figures 14 and 15), classified as site series 32 (Ministry of Forests 1993), in areas adjacent to a stream running south through the system. Numerous cedar snags and red alder provided an open canopy, and sedges (Carex spp.), pink spirea, and running clubmoss dominated the understory. Moose (Alces alces) browse and tracks were noted in the area (Figures 16 and 17). The crew crossed the creek and headed south toward the Hot Springs Resort. On the southeast side of the creek, the site similarly consisted of a complex of intermittent bog forest in raised sites with wetter sites occupied by a 05 site series. Evidence of previous logging was noted. Additionally, residents of Kreston St. had noted that a large grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) had been frequenting the area approximately three weeks prior to the site assessment, and evidence of skunk cabbage excavations was noted. No listed plant species were identified in the area, but further surveys should be carried out in the growing season to ensure none were missed due to winter kill.

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Figure 2: MoT right-of-way, locally know as the “as built” trail. View to the southeast (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 4: Drainage channel surrounding the farmlands near the hot springs (November 15, 2010).

Figure 5: Low bench red alder – salmonberry – horsetail ecosystem, Fl51 (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 6: Conifer dominated, site series 05 (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 8: East of First Avenue and south of Lot 2520, fen with cattails (November 15, 2010).

Figure 9: Culvert inlet on the east side of First Avenue, Wm05 site series (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 10: Labrador tea in the understory of the bog forest on the south end of Kreston Street (November 15, 2010).

Figure 11: Red sphagnum in the understory of the bog forest on the south end of Kreston Street (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 12: Overview of bog forest at the south end of Kreston Street (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 14: Bog forest transitioning to fen, adjacent to unnamed stream (November 15, 2010).

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Figure 16: Moose browse noted in transitional area (November15, 2010).

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Terrestrial Sites Assessments

Three sites were surveyed for the potential location of the facility infrastructure. Two sites were located on the east side of Lakelse Lake, one north of Lakelse Lake Lodge Road and west of Highway 37S, which will be referred to as the northeast site, and one south of Lakelse Lake Lodge Road and west of the highway, herein identified as the southeast site. The other option was located on the west side of Lakelse Lake, approximately 1 km north of the outlet of Lakelse Lake and 500 m west of the junction of Beam Station Road and Catt Point Road. This site will be referred to as the west site. On November 12, 2010, a registered professional biologist visited each of the three sites, assessed the current values, and considered any potential effects that construction and operation of the facilities may have on those values.

The northeast site is situated just south of Hatchery Creek alongside Highway 37S on its west side. This is a zonal, mesic site with a forest consisting primarily of 180 to 200 year old lodgepole pine, western hemlock and western redcedar growing on old fluvial deposits (Figure 18). Channels are still visible and the characteristic deltoid shape of the area is evidence of the former influence of Hatchery Creek on the ecosystem, but limitations in understory growth suggest that this area has long been isolated from the creek’s flow (Figure 19). The shrub layer of the understory is sparse, consisting of regenerating hemlock and redcedar and isolated patches of false azalea (Menziesia ferruginea) and oval-leaved blueberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium). The poorly developed herb layer includes small patches of bunchberry, spiny wood fern (Dryopteris expansa), and queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora), interspersed with a carpet of step moss.

Evidence of use by wildlife in the area was restricted to browsed redcedar saplings along the edge of the BC Hydro right-of-way (Figure 20), though the structure of the forest may lend itself to supporting northern goshawk nesting (Accipiter gentilis ssp. laingi), a red-listed species that nests in closed canopy forests.

The site located south of Lakelse Lake Lodge Road is bordered to the west by the properties on the east side of Kreston Street and to the southeast by Highway 37S. This site consists of a 180 to 200 year old submesic to xeric stunted western hemlock forest on very old fluvial deposits (Figure 21). The forest appears to be edaphically restricted and has a canopy cover of approximately 50%. The shrub layer is dominated by large, concentrated patches of oval-leaved blueberry, while the herb layer is nearly vacant, replaced instead by a carpet of step mosses in some areas and lichens in drier areas (Figure 22). This ecosystem association was identified as the 03 site series (Ministry of Forests 1993), also known as western hemlock – lodgepole pine/red-stemmed feathermoss (Tsuga heterophylla – Pinus contorta/Pleurozium schreberi), and is classified blue-listed by the CDC.

No wildlife sign was observed, but the structure of the forest provides good potential habitat for American marten (Martes americana) and other small mammals.

The site on the west side of Lakelse Lake is centred on a gravel pit located north of Beam Station Road, approximately 500 m west of the junction of Beam Station Road with Catt Point

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Road. This site is a heavily disturbed zonal site, with a history of logging and use as a gravel quarry and a dumping site for locals. Soils in much of the area have been compacted by historical disturbance, and the forested areas here are primarily composed of deciduous stands pole/sapling stands of red alder up to 7 m in height, with components of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), paper birch, and black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) (Figure 23). Forests in less disturbed areas contain western hemlock and lodgepole pine. The shrub layer consists of low density regenerating conifers 3 to 5 m in height (Figure 24), with patches of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) where organic soils have been piled and a few ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), pink spirea and thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) stems.

Given the time of year that the survey was conducted, the herb layer at this site was difficult to distinguish due to die down and leaf cover. Some moose browse was evident on cedar saplings in the area, and antler rubs were observed on some aspen trees, but no other wildlife sign was recorded. No significant values were detected at this site given the average site conditions and a history of heavy disturbance.

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Figure 19: Evidence of the former influence of Hatchery Creek on the ecosystem (November 12, 2010).

Figure 20: Moose browse on western redcedar in the northeast site (November 12, 2010).

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Figure 21: South of Lakelse Lake Lodge Rd., submesic to xeric stunted western hemlock forest on very old fluvial deposits (November 12, 2010).

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Figure 23:West side of Lakelse Lake, deciduous stands of pole sapling red alder (November 12, 2010).

Figure 24: West side of Lakelse Lake, western redcedar regeneration in the understory (November 12, 2010).

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Conclusion

It can be concluded that only a few issues were identified during the November 2010 field assessment. Red- or blue-listed plant species could not be identified within either the wetland areas or the terrestrial sites during the field assessment due to the timing of the visits. No significant issues were identified within the wetland areas. While evidence of grizzly bear use was noted within one of the wetland areas, and this species is classified blue-listed by the CDC and designated for protection by SARA, the introduction of treated effluent into the wetland system is not expected to have substantial impacts on the habitat suitability, provided any impacts on fish populations that may utilize the watercourse running through the area are mitigated. Furthermore, no significant issues were identified within the three terrestrial sites; however, the northeast site could potentially be nesting habitat for Northern Goshawks although no nests were observed during the field assessment. Furthermore, the southeast site was classified as a blue-listed 03 site series and therefore any development within this area must endeavor to minimize the impact footprint and maintain the remaining ecosystem values.

It is recommended that further investigation take place in the spring of 2011 following the finalization of development plans. Presence/absence surveys for rare and endangered plant species should be completed for both the wetland and terrestrial locations. Furthermore, call-playback surveys for Northern Goshawks should be completed during the breeding season to determine if this species nests within the several of the candidate areas.

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Literature Cited

Banner, A. et al. 1993. A Field guide to site identification and interpretation for the Prince Rupert Forest Region. Res. Br. B.C. Min. For., Victoria, B.C. Land Manage. Handb. No. 26. MacKenzie, W.H. and J.R. Moran. 2004. Wetlands of British Columbia: a guide to identification.

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