In general, an assessment will consist of several procedural steps such as scoping, analysis, determination of significance, development of mitigation measures, and development and implementation of a follow-up program. These steps are iterative rather than linear; circumstances commonly arise during the course of an assessment that require these steps to be revisited. The assessment procedure, including the different steps one has to consider, is captured in a case study provided at the end of this section.
Public participation is a critical element throughout the assessment process and input from the public should be sought from the initial stages of proposed projects. This can be beneficial by integrating local knowledge at the planning phase of projects.
Further, it is important to note that trained professionals in cultural heritage resources should be involved throughout the assessment of the project, as appropriate.
Effective scoping focuses the EA analysis on relevant environmental issues and concerns arising from a proposed project.
Scoping for cultural heritage resources should consider the following:
The first step in a scoping exercise is to identify cultural heritage resources located on- and off-site which potentially could be affected by the project. To do this, it is necessary to assess the potential for the presence of cultural heritage resources first through a site survey or inspection, then identify and evaluate them. This would also provide information on the significance of the cultural heritage resources that may be affected by a project. Once the geographical area and the significance of the resources have been identified, then identification of site boundaries should follow. During this early phase of the project, project site boundaries should remain flexible at least until all cultural resources have been identified and consensus among project team members has been satisfied.
Background information may include historical events and key characteristics of the area, particularly with respect to the culture and important heritage values of those living in the area.
The scientific significance of heritage sites is also an important aspect to be considered when assessing a heritage site. Any sites recognized for their heritage value should be identified in an environmental assessment.
Possible sources of information to assist in identifying potential for or the presence of important cultural heritage resources include:
Pertinent questions to ask when identifying cultural heritage resources include, for example:
Setting boundaries for cultural heritage resources must be planned within the project area. Although in some instances, the cultural heritage resources might be a distance from the core area of the project and might be affected by the project, inclusion of these cultural heritage resources could be considered within the boundaries of the project.
It is important to remember that the Act requires to assess any change on cultural heritage resources resulting from changes in the environment caused by the project. This must be kept in mind when establishing boundaries for a project.
Cumulative environmental effects is defined as,
“the effect on the environment which results from effects of a project when combined with those of other past, existing and imminent projects and activities. These may occur over a certain period of time and distance.”
(RA Guide 1994).
When identifying spatial and temporal boundaries the cumulative environmental effects which could result from the project must be considered. Defining the spatial and temporal boundaries establishes a frame of reference for assessing cumulative environmental effects and facilitates their identification. Such boundaries can also influence the assessment in a variety of ways. If large boundaries are defined, only a superficial assessment may be possible and uncertainty will increase. If the boundaries are small, a more detailed examination may be feasible but an understanding of the broad context may be sacrificed. Proponents may perceive assessments with large boundaries as onerous or unfeasible, whereas the public may think small boundaries do not adequately encompass all of the project's environmental effects.
Most importantly, the boundaries of an assessment should be reasonable. In many cases, it will be appropriate to consult with the affected public in making this determination. Whatever boundaries are set, they may influence the determination of significance, because the effects including cumulative effects of the project on cultural heritage resources may be very significant locally, but of little significance regionally.
The term “environmental effect”, defined in Section 2(1) of the Act, includes the effects on physical and cultural heritage which may result from changing environmental conditions caused by a project. For further clarification on environmental effects, refer to section 1.4 of the RA Guide.
The following questions should be considered:
The responsibility over heritage matters is shared by several jurisdictions and consultation with other government agencies is an essential aspect of the assessment. The public must also be consulted, preferably in the early planning stages of the project, to ensure that community values and concerns have been considered in an environmental assessment.
The objective of the analysis is to describe how the potential environmental effects of a project may affect cultural heritage resources. This phase of the assessment should include:
The Act requires the RA to determine whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. While consideration of the significance of various forms of physical impacts on heritage resources is important, they must be balanced with a firm understanding of the historic, archaeological and cultural significance of the resources in question. These issues must be explored if mitigation is to be effective which is also a reason to consult with professionals at the onset of a project with a potential of having cultural heritage resources.
In the case where impacts on cultural heritage resources are the only significant impacts identified in the overall context of the project, it is at the discretion of the RA to make a decision on whether the project would be determined to cause significant environmental effects. In making a determination on significance, the following questions should be considered:
|Change in the Environment||Effects on Cultural Heritage Resources|
|Land disturbance and transformation of natural landscapes (e.g. soil compaction, dredging, digging, filling, clearing, etc.)|
|Effects of underground construction|
|Demolition or construction of buildings or other structures|
For more detailed information on determination of significance refer to the RA Guide.
Consultation with heritage experts is strongly advised to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures for cultural heritage resources are implemented. Although a range of measures could be deployed to mitigate impacts on cultural heritage resources, those chosen must fit the type and scope of a project. Mitigation measures must be technically and economically feasible and could include:
The objectives of a follow-up program are to verify the accuracy of the EA and determine the effectiveness of any mitigation measures that have been implemented. Section 16(2) of the Act requires that all comprehensive studies, all mediation and assessments by a review panel consider the need for, and requirements of a follow-up program. If it is determined that the project is likely to cause effects on cultural heritage resources and that a follow-up program is needed, then monitoring the effects on the cultural heritage resources may be included in the follow-up program.
While consideration of the need for follow-up is required for all but the screening phase of a federal EA, the determination of appropriateness and actual implementation of such a program is left to the discretion of the RA.
A federal/provincial panel was formed to review and assess the proposed construction of a sewage treatment plant and oil-from-sludge facility on Ives Island at Ives Cove off the north end of McNabbs Island near Halifax. The project included the construction of the collector system, an artificial island and a diffuser.
Some members of the community felt that the project would result in the destruction and loss of access to the cultural heritage resources through the construction of the artificial island. These resources consisted of a careening yard, a concrete hut associated with Canadian military history, and possibly a Micmac historic site at Indian Point. The creation of the artificial island would also eliminate access to, and possibly destroy, other cultural heritage resources; three wooden shipwrecks in the shallow water off Ives Cove, usually accessible on foot from the beach at low tide. There was concern that the remains of historic vessels in the shipping channel could be lost due to construction of the diffuser.
The analysis confirmed that the concrete hut would be completely covered by the artificial island. It was also determined that the shipwrecks would possibly be disturbed by construction activities.
The measures proposed to mitigate impacts on land-based cultural heritage resource included testing and excavation by professional archaeologists to investigate cultural heritage resources occurring at the construction sites. Regular inspections were also proposed to ensure that any new cultural heritage resources discovered during construction activities would be assessed and mitigated appropriately using rescue archaeology.
The Panel recommended that Halifax Harbour Cleanup Inc. and the Environmental Effects Monitoring Committee design monitoring programs, as necessary, to provide a well-rounded cumulative effects monitoring program that would address the assimilative capacity of Halifax Harbour over the life of the project.