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Innovative Solution at Yorkson Creek Saves Client Millions

Jun 10, 2016

When the Township of Langley’s RFP came out for design and construction services for a long span bridge over Yorkson Creek, McElhanney’s team began to think a little more creatively. Dave Dulay, EngL, Project Manager/EoR for the crossing, saw a design opportunity that would save the client a lot of money, while sustaining salmon migration.

"The client asked consulting firms to submit proposals outlining their plans for a long span bridge over the creek. We estimated that this would cost around $7M. Our solution was able to shave about $5M off the project cost," says Dave.

For such savings, Dave proposed a boxed culvert instead, with a fish baffle system designed to make migration easier for salmon. Dave worked with Nav Sandhu, PEng, as the Drainage Lead on the project to help design the most effective solution and the team was awarded the contract.

They now faced a combined engineering and regulatory challenge. Historically, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) had required clear span crossings of fish-bearing watercourses, or lengthy authorization processes requiring extensive compensation for any habitat areas lost. However, the changes introduced by the Fisheries Act 2012 allowed the team to take a fresh approach. McElhanney’s environmental team, with Ross Murray, RPBio, as Environmental Lead and Thomas Fita, RPBio, PAg, as Environmental Scientist, undertook the task.

The engineering and environmental teams worked together to tighten the footprint and optimize the culvert alignment to minimize habitat impacts. The team selected a precast option over cast-in-place because it meant less interaction with the creek, which further reduced habitat disturbance.

Then came the regulatory challenge. Where previously DFO considered quantitative assessments of habitat areas only, the new Fisheries Act was based on potential impacts on fisheries productivity. This required a detailed assessment of Yorkson Creek fisheries productivity, and a report assessing a broad range of productivity parameters through a process termed “Pathway-of-Effects.” The outcome was a Letter of Advice with no need for an authorization or compensation.  

McElhanney’s Doug D’Appolonia acted as the Construction Inspector and oversaw the swift installation of the culvert, as all construction needed be done within BC’s one-month construction window for in-stream works.

Only a few short weeks after the team completed the crossing, wild Coho salmon returned to the creek by swimming through the culvert. The team was sent a congratulatory note by the President of the Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society, who also included photos of an adult Coho exiting the culvert. He let the team know that he has nominated McElhanney for an Environmental Hero’s Award with the Langley Environmental Protection Society.

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