In the sections below, click "Show" to display case studies relating to the field of expertise.

Environmental Impact Assessment

St. Albert West Regional Roadway; ISL Engineering and Land Services
and City of St. Albert, 2001-2007

St. Albert West Regional Road

WWR Bridge: St. Albert West Regional Road Phase 1, Photo used with permission from City of St. Albert and ISL

Spencer Environmental was the primary environmental consultant, responsible for preparation of an Environmental Assessment document to meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Planning for the project began in the 1960s and moved into the detailed design stage in the 1990s, when the road was necessary to manage urban growth.

Various routes were examined but later rejected by several City of St. Albert City Councils, primarily on the basis of environmental considerations owing to the proximity of the corridor to Big Lake, recognized as an important migratory bird habitat, now also dedicated as a provincial park. In 2001, City Council approved a proposed route and initiated detailed design and environmental review studies required to construct the road.

Spencer Environmental coordinated and prepared the City's EA document required to satisfy the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act process. Further, our firm was instrumental in obtaining environmental approvals required from all levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal) and secured all environmental permits required for project construction. The project was approved partially on the basis of the innovative environmental protection plans developed by Spencer Environmental in consultation with its clients.

Construction of the project commenced in 2005 and Spencer Environmental provided environmental construction monitoring and supervision for the project to assure that environmental mitigation measures were implemented as planned. The project's mitigation included construction of compensatory wetland habitat and fish habitat for cool-water species.

Goldbar Membrane-Treated Wastewater Pipeline;
PetroCanada and City of Edmonton, 2003

PetroCanada proposed to upgrade a refinery located in Strathcona County to support production of diesel fuels that would comply with new emission standards. A dependable water supply was an important component of the refining process. Working with City of Edmonton Drainage Services Branch, PetroCanada identified treated wastewater from the City of Edmonton's Goldbar Wastewater Treatment Plant as a dependable source that also would meet strict water quality standards. Further, by using that source, the need to take water directly from the North Saskatchewan River was eliminated; a scheme consistent with the Province of Alberta's policy on water conservation.

Transportation of the treated wastewater to the PetroCanada refinery, required that a pipeline be constructed through the environmentally sensitive North Saskatchewan River Valley in east Edmonton. The project required approval by the City of Edmonton Planning and Development Department and permitting from federal departments, which triggered a Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAAct) review. PetroCanada was required to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment that would meet requirements of both the CEAA and the city, and also support other permit applications for the Province of Alberta and federal government.

Spencer Environmental undertook supporting biological and outdoor recreation studies, coordinated the activities of other professionals and prepared the EIA. Timelines for this project were extremely tight as PetroCanada's refinery required the upgrades to comply with the introduction of new federal government emission standards. The EIA was submitted and approved by all agencies according to schedule, allowing construction to proceed as planned. The project has since received numeroud prestigious awards for excellence in environmental protection and management.

Biophysical Surveys

Land developers are often required by many municipal planning authorities to undertake biophysical assessments in support of their land development applications. The biophysical information is used to determine if environmentally sensitive lands or conservation values exist that should be protected within the development scheme. These biophysical surveys are also used by Spencer Environmental to determine if environmental permits will be subsequently required of the developer. Spencer Environmental has undertaken many of these biophysical surveys for developers, who have used them in support of their development applications.

Spencer Environmental has Geographic Information Systems (GIS) capability for its biophysical surveys and we can generate information compatible with engineering and planning specialists who work in Autocad platforms. This allows us to work closely with our clients to ensure impacts to sensitive resources are minimized and to produce environmentally sound proposals that will pass readily through regulatory approval processes.

Development of an Implementation Plan for Development
of the North Saskatchewan River Valley, Greater Edmonton Region;
River Valley Alliance, 2006

North Sask River Valley

Spencer Environmental was a member of a consortium of consulting companies assembled to develop a recreational plan for the North Saskatchewan River Valley. On bahalf of the River Valley Alliance (RVA), which is composed of representatives of the cities of Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan the counties of and Devon and Parkland, Leduc and Strathcona. The vision of the RVA is to develop a North Saskatchewan River Valley park stretching from the Town of Devon to Fort Saskatchewan, connected by the river and multi-use trails.

Spencer Environmental prepared the GIS-based resource mapping for the project, undertook selected environmental inventory work to update existing information and developed models that identified the best locations within the valley for certain activities and features. We also provided environmental advice to the consortium on an ongoing basis. The resulting plan is now in a stage of public and council review, the first step of its implementation.

County of Strathcona, miscellaneous land developers, 1998-2007

Spencer Environmental has developed an excellent working knowledge of the County of Strathcona's procedures for undertaking biophysical assessments in support of development applications and has consulted to numerous engineering firms and planning consultants working on projects in that County. Spencer Environmental is knowledgeable about the various biophysical inventory reports prepared for the County and used in their assessment of projects. Our staff is also familiar to County personnel overseeing environmental planning in the County and often works together with them to facilitate preparation and approval of assessments.

Spencer Environmental has prepared biophysical assessments in support of rural residential neighborhoods, intensively developed suburban subdivisions, industrial land developments and tourism developments in the county. Spencer Environmental has assisted some of these same clients in obtaining environmental permits associated with land development, such as the Alberta Water Act, Public Lands Act, federal Fisheries Act and others.

Environmental Policy and Strategy Development

Spencer Environmental has assisted federal, provincial and municipal governments in developing environmental policies for such activities as wetlands management, land development, hydrocarbon exploration and sustainable land management strategies. Often, such projects result in long-term working relationships that allow us to see the effectiveness of these strategies, and the steps required to successfully convert policy to practice.

Beaverhills Initiative, 2004-2007

GIS map

The Cooking Lake or Beaverhills Moraine is a unique and as yet lightly developed landform located to the east of Edmonton, straddling the counties of Strathcona, Beaver, Camrose, and Leduc. Elk Island National Park and the provincial government's Blackfoot Grazing Reserve are also located within the moraine. The combination of rolling topography and poor agricultural soils have resulted in preservation of much of the natural vegetation cover within the moraine, which contributes to its value to local residents as a place to live, work and recreate.

Currently, agriculture, conservation, outdoor recreation, and in some areas rural residential acreages are important land uses, but development pressure for further rural residential subdivision development is a growing concern for all of the municipalities within the moraine. The concern regarding potential impacts of uncontrolled growth on the moraine prompted those municipalities, the provincial and federal protected areas agencies and other government agencies and NGOs working within the area to form the Beaverhills Initiative (BHI). The BHI promotes sustainable development within the moraine through cooperative efforts and has initiated a number of projects to identify and manage the environmental, social and economic features of value within the moraine. The BHI also acts as a forum for partner agencies to collaborate and share resources and information, to enable all partners, particularly the municipalities, to manage the area for sustainable use.

Spencer Environmental has been instrumental in BHI's work, primarily through GIS data development and acquisition. The comprehensive biophysical resource dataset compiled for the BHI allows land managers to identify environmental sensitivities that may be affected by development or land use. Associated GIS analysis products identified areas in which specific land management techniques could be applied to conserve and sustain key environmental features and processes, including wildlife movement corridors, aquatic health and groundwater protection.

Recently, Spencer Environmental developed a manual of Best Management Practices, environmental regulatory requirements and a review of land use policy within the five municipalities, to identify areas in which policy could be strengthened to support sustainable land management within the land use planning process. The manual, currently undergoing a trial use period by the municipalities, will ideally provide the consistent land use planning framework originally envisioned by the BHI and its partner agencies and municipalities.

Status of Natural Areas; City of Edmonton Office of Natural Areas, 2006

GIS map

City of Edmonton has a Natural Areas Policy for protecting natural features located outside of the river valley on the adjacent table lands. The entire North Saskatchewan River Valley is protected by Bylaw 7188, the north Saskatchewan River Vally Redeveopment Plan. The Natural Areas Policy addresses natural areas identified in an inventory undertaken in 1993 and then updated in 1999. The Policy requires that proponents assess the current and post-development effects of proposed development on the City's Natural Areas. Spencer Environmental has undertaken many of those assessments on behalf of developers.

In 2006, the City of Edmonton contracted Spencer Environmental to prepare a status report on Natural Areas, updating the existing inventory and adding to it natural areas within the river valley. The existing inventory was updated to address areas lost to development and added areas that had been missed by previous inventories. A second focus of Spencer Environmental's study was to develop an understanding of the ecological connections that now exist between all Natural Areas within the City, including those within the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The resulting comprehensive inventory provides the basis for management of all natural lands within the City, a goal of the City's Natural Areas Policy. Spencer Environmental also undertook GIS mapping and modeling to develop an ecological network map for the City of Edmonton, which will be used to guide natural areas conservation and future land development in the City of Edmonton.

Wetland Assessments and Compensation Planning

Crystallina Wetlands Assessment and Compensation Plan;
UMA Engineering and Genstar Development Corporation, 2007


Genstar is a major developer in the greater Edmonton region. Spencer Environmental has been providing environmental consulting services to Genstar through UMA Engineering in the north Edmonton area since the early 1990s. For the Crystallina Neighborhood, Spencer Environmental inventoried all natural features on the lands and prepared Natural Area assessments pursuant to the City Natural Areas Policy. The biophysical inventory identified several wetlands on the land parcel that were subject to the province of Alberta's Interim Wetland Policy and required Water Act approval prior to disturbance. Spencer Environmental has developed protocols for undertaking wetland assessments in support of Water Act approvals that are well-accepted by Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resources Development. Those protocols were applied to this project, in order to secure permits required for development to proceed.

For the Crystallina development, Spencer Environmental, determined wetland classes, assessed wetland functions, and identified wetland losses attributable to the development. We also developed a wetland compensation strategy and negotiated that strategy with Alberta Environment. On behalf of the client, we also made arrangements with Ducks Unlimited for compensation through wetland restoration in the Edmonton area. Subsequent applications prepared on behalf of the client for approvals pursuant to the Alberta Water Act were successfully obtained, allowing the development to proceed as planned.

East Freeway Design Assessment and Northeast Stony Trail Project;
Calgary, Alberta, 2000-2007

Spencer Environmental is the prime environmental consultant to the consortium selected by Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation (INFTRA) to build, operate and own Calgary's Northeast Stoney Trail (Stoney Trail Group). The Northeast Stoney Trail (NEST) project is the second roadway in the province to be constructed under a Public-Private Partnership (P3) agreement. This roadway is the northeastern segment of the East Freeway, a ring road planned by INFTRA since the 1960s. Spencer Environmental has been involved with planning of the project since 2000 when the firm undertook a preliminary inventory of wetlands potentially impacted by the project. Spencer Environmental also undertook environmental assessment for the project on behalf of Transtech Engineering during the functional planning exercise that preceded the P3 construction award.

Wetland disturbance and loss was the primary environmental issue for the project. Over 200 wetlands lie within just the northeast portion of the East Freeway; although many wetlands could be avoided during the design process, impacts still remained. During the early 2000s, Spencer Environmental undertook detailed inventories of the wetlands, including those within the regionally important Shepherd's Slough complex. This included surveys of sensitive plant or wildlife species, as well as general habitat condition. Relying on a GIS database developed by the City of Calgary, which delineates all wetlands within the undeveloped fringe of the City, and our own inventories, Spencer Environmental determined the form and function of each impacted wetland. These wetland data provided the basis for future approval applications pursuant to the Alberta Water Act on behalf of Stoney Trail Group.

Upon award of the P3 project to NEST, Spencer Environmental set about securing Water Act approval for the project, so that this time-sensitive construction project could proceed according to schedule. Spencer Environmental successfully secured a Water Act approval for the project for disturbance and/or loss of about 270 wetlands within the road alignment, allowing construction to proceed as scheduled. This process included negotiation of a wetland compensation plan with Alberta Environment to replace about 150 hectares of habitat and discussions with a member of the public who filed a statement of concern.

Spencer Environmental has been responsible for every environmental facet for this project through planning to construction and is now responsible for environmental monitoring and environmental construction supervision. This included development, implementation and management of an Environmental Management System that will ensure that all work on the project meets or exceeds environmental legislation and other INFTRA requirements.

Environmental Permitting

Southeast Anthony Henday Drive; ISL Engineering and Land Services,
Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation PCL Constructors and BelMK,
Edmonton, Alberta, 2003-2007

Southeast Anthony Henday Drive

91 Street overview: Southeast Anthony Henday Drive, Photo courtesy PCL, Photographer Merle Prosofsky

In 2003-2004, Spencer Environmental undertook environmental investigations in support of a functional planning study of a proposed ring road around southeast Edmonton, southeast Anthony Henday Drive. Following that study, we were retained by Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation to prepare an Environmental Assessment to meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Site investigations included surveys of wildlife and vegetation species, waterfowl, wetlands, noise and other biophysical features. Spencer Environmental secured "approval in principle" from the federal government for the EIA, which allowed the project to proceed to construction and to secure federal funding.

Southeast Anthony Henday Drive is a Public-Private Partnership P3 project, the first such project to be undertaken by the province. Spencer Environmental was retained by the project consortium to develop wetland compensation plans for the project and to secure an Alberta Water Act approval for construction. Spencer Environmental was instrumental in obtaining the approval. Spencer Environmental has been retained by PCL Constructors to develop a biological monitoring program that will assess the wildlife productivity of stormwater management facilities constructed as wetland habitats.

Outfall repair and replacement: Whitemud Creek; Edmonton, Alberta,
City of Edmonton Drainage Services, 2005

Spencer Environmental has undertaken numerous water treatment, stormwater management and wastewater treatment projects throughout Alberta. Many of these projects required environmental assessments to meet Canadian Environmental Assessment Act or municipal environmental requirements. Many projects have been undertaken directly for or through prime engineering consultants for City of Edmonton Drainage Services Branch.

Severe summer storms in 2004 significantly damaged Edmonton's drainage infrastructure, necessitating an intensive program of repairs. One such project was repair to a stormwater outlet into the environmentally sensitive Whitemud Creek, one of Edmonton's largest Natural Areas. An environmental assessment was undertaken by Spencer Environmental to meet the requirements of City of Edmonton Bylaw 7188 and to provide environmental information in support of applications for environmental permits from the federal and provincial governments.

Spencer Environmental undertook site investigations for fish and fish habitat, wildlife, vegetation and other related subject and gained approval from Edmonton Planning and Development for the project. In addition, Spencer Environmental secured authorization pursuant to the federal Fisheries Act from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and authorization from Alberta Environment pursuant to the Alberta Code of Practice for Outfall Structures on Water Bodies.

Environmental Monitoring and Construction Supervision

Biological monitoring of selected City of Edmonton stormwater management facilities; City of Edmonton Drainage Services, 2007; Biological Monitoring Program for Highway Stormwater Management Facilities constructed as compensatory wetlands, PCL Constructors, Edmonton, Alberta, 2007


As part of Edmonton's development, stormwater management facilities have been constructed throughout the urban landscape. In some cases, the facility was intended solely to provide water storage; in others, the objective was to mimic a natural wetland. Environmental design guidelines have been developed by the city for stormwater management facilities but this was not the case when the city began constructing the facilities years ago. While construction of the facilities has been ongoing for over two decades, no one has ever systematically examined them to determine how they perform biologically and how successful design standards have been in creating wetland environments.

Spencer Environmental was retained by City of Edmonton Drainage Services to undertake a biological monitoring program in a representative sample of stormwater management facilities. Investigations include the subject areas of benthic invertebrates, fish, vegetation, avifauna and amphibians. Results will be used to improve design criteria and maintenance procedures for future facilities.

More recently, Spencer Environmental was retained by PCL Constructors to develop a multi-year biological monitoring investigation to determine the biological success of stormwater management facilities constructed for Southeast Anthony Henday Drive Public-Private Partnership. Monitoring studies are a condition as a result of approvals to remove natural wetlands. The studies will provide valuable feedback to PCL, Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, Alberta Environment, Environment Canada and other agencies and firms interested in wetland creation.