9.2 Reducing Environmental Impact
Given their economic and social significance, and the lack of viable alternatives, the highway and the railway will remain in the parks. The parks will manage natural processes such as avalanches and forest fires to reduce the risk to facilities and travellers. Parks Canada must, however, look at ways to reduce the environmental impact of the corridor, particularly on wildlife, vegetation and aquatic ecosystems. All proposals will undergo appropriate environmental assessment as well as a review of materials available regionally. Sound pollution from CPR operations is also a concern in wilderness areas of the Beaver Valley.
Both the railway and the highway cut through prime valley-bottom wildlife habitat and may affect wildlife movement through these areas. As well, wildlife attracted to the railway by grain spills are sometimes struck and killed.
Trains and vehicles introduce non-native plants into the parks. The spread of invasive non-native plants is a significant threat to native biodiversity and natural wildlife habitats.
Diesel exhaust from the MacDonald railway tunnel is vented without filtration.
The highway and the railway change the natural water flow in some areas. Abrasives and salt used in road maintenance can affect the health of riparian areas. This is of particular concern in the unique Beaver Valley fen between the highway and the rail line.
9.2.1 Strategic Goal
The national transportation corridor and secondary roads are managed in a way that supports Parks Canada's commitment to ecological and commemorative integrity and enables travellers to experience the park safely.
- To meet or exceed all environmental standards in the operation of the Trans-Canada Highway.
- To reduce the environmental impact of the railway and its operations.
- To maintain the Trans-Canada Highway in a safe, reliable manner that minimizes both highway closures and the ecological impacts of interventions.
- To maintain the Meadows-in-the-Sky Parkway in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner.
- To consider developments that improve ecological or commemorative integrity and public safety.
- To mitigate fragmentation and loss of valley bottom habitat.
- To reduce or eliminate human-caused mortality of wildlife and toxic spills.
- To maintain, where feasible, valley bottom processes adjacent to the highway and railway that create riparian habitat and wetlands and restore alienated habitat.
- To minimize the introduction of new species of invasive plants and reduce existing invasive weeds that threaten ecological integrity.
- To maintain existing wetland ecosystems and manage the Beaver Valley fen as an environmentally sensitive site.
9.2.3 Key Actions
- Establish an inter-agency Transportation Advisory Committee to identify planning, operation and maintenance opportunities to decrease the environmental impact of the transportation corridor.
- With the help of the committee, identify a set of best practices to deal with concerns about mortality, wildlife connectivity, salt and abrasive use, toxic spills, run-off, railway tunnel noise, air pollution, cultural resource management and improvements to visitor services.
- Undertake long-term transportation corridor planning and design. This will allow for appropriate environmental assessment and mitigation of any improvement or expansion of the highway and promote ongoing dialogue on practices, problems and opportunities.
- When making changes to transportation facilities, consider designs that reduce the need to cross or manipulate streams and that make it easier for wildlife to cross the corridor.
- Work closely with the Canadian Pacific Railway to develop and implement operational plans and practices.
- Monitor parking during road closures for avalanche stabilization; consider alternatives if necessary.
- Control and, where possible, eliminate invasive weed sites and disturbances to native plant communities, by adopting an integrated pest management program.
- Prepare restoration plans for significant disturbed sites; replant disturbed areas where appropriate with native ground cover.
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