Wetlands are a critical and valued component of boreal landscapes across Canada. They also comprise a significant proportion of operational tenures within the in-situ oil sands regions of Alberta. The COSIA Land Environmental Priority Area initiated a project to create an inventory of shared practices, improve knowledge sharing, clarify knowledge gaps, and identify opportunities for innovation.
To accomplish these goals, standard operating procedures from COSIA companies were reviewed and interviews with key company personnel were completed. A series of field visits were conducted to further understand the context for practices and to observe their effectiveness. FPInnovations brought to the research team its expertise from the forest industry which could also be applied to in-situ oil sands operations. Terry Osko of Circle T Consulting and Matthew Pyper of Fuse Consulting also shared considerable expertise from their personal fields of focus. The result was a wetlands shared-practices toolbox which summarized several common and uncommon practices in field-ready factsheets. The full report is available here.
Common practices included pre-planning efforts to understand wetland characteristics, use of culverts, and use of geosynthetics to improve bearing capacity. Uncommon practices included the use of corduroy in road and pad construction, use of rock drains to improve drainage, and use of piles to support culverts during road or pad settlement. Providing time for peat consolidation during a road or pad construction sequence was a practice that was increasing in popularity due to the improved effectiveness and reliability of the compressed matrix.
“In addition to the shared-practice toolbox, this project highlighted a series of core opportunities to improve practices,” explains Clayton Gillies, a senior researcher in FPInnovations’ Roads and Infrastructure group. These opportunities included:
– Developing programs that train staff to identify different wetland types and use existing digital products that identify wetland types
– Adopting a staged approach to constructing pads and roads to enable peat consolidation and encourage strengthening of the peat foundation
– Increasing the frequency of drainage structures, such as culverts, along roads
– Developing an operational field guide for operating in and around wetlands
– Continuing to identify opportunities to minimize footprints and/or improve the resilience of footprints that are placed on wetlands
For more information about this project, please contact Clayton Gillies.