How we're protecting bald eagles during Site C construction
As we begin construction on the Site C Project, managing effects on wildlife remains a priority
Bald eagles and other wildlife are an important part of British Columbia's biodiversity. Animals like eagles are as much a part of B.C.'s iconic landscape and identity as the mountains or the ocean.
That's why BC Hydro and our contractors are taking appropriate steps to minimize disturbances to bald eagles and other raptors during construction of Site C, by following provincial guidelines and permit conditions specific to the Site C Project.
Provincial guidelines identify that the appropriate way to minimize disturbance to eagles during construction activities is to avoid disrupting active nests. Prior to tree clearing during the breeding bird window, when birds are breeding and nesting the most, BC Hydro and our contractors will conduct nest surveys to identify active nests, which are nests where adult or juvenile eagles or other birds, or eggs are present. To reduce disturbance to nesting birds, 300-metre no activity buffers will be implemented around active bald eagle nests, and will remain in place around each nest until the nest is confirmed to be inactive.
Working under approved permits means following strict guidelines around removal
What does inactive mean? Inactive means the nest is no longer being occupied by a bird or an egg. Aerial helicopter surveys will be done to confirm the activity status of known nests and to identify any new nests that may have been constructed since the last survey.
If it's necessary to remove a tree with a nest, we'll work under the bald eagle nest removal permit that we've been issued under the BC Wildlife Act. Following the permit means that nests will only be removed when inactive, and won't be removed between April 1 and July 31.
If nests must be removed between March 1 and 31 or August 1 and September 30 a qualified environmental professional will confirm that nests are inactive before they're removed or relocated.
Some nests in the Peace River immediately upstream of the dam site construction area could fall down due to the backwatering caused by the channelization and diversion of the river. We'll be removing these nests proactively to reduce the risk of these nests falling down during active nesting. Further upstream bald eagle nests within the reservoir area and outside construction areas will be left in place until reservoir filling at the end of the construction period, currently estimated to be around 2024.
Artificial nesting platforms will help eagles move outside the project area
Bald eagles are impressive nest builders, and frequently build new nests, alternate nests or modify their existing nests. To support bald eagles in building new nests outside of the Site C project area, we'll install approximately 38 artificial nesting platforms away from the project construction.
The platforms will be installed at the height of the surrounding trees to mimic the conditions that eagles prefer to construct nests, and the locations for the platforms will consider surrounding habitat and water features, including the new reservoir. In select cases, where feasible and safe, nests may be able to be removed intact and relocated onto the new nest platforms.
10 years of annual monitoring after construction
Annual monitoring of nesting bald eagles in the Peace River Valley will occur during the estimated nine years of construction and will continue for the first 10 years of Site C's operations. This monitoring will document, among other things, the use by bald eagles or other species of both the artificial nest platforms and alternate natural trees for new nest construction.
BC Hydro has been studying wildlife, including bald eagles, in the Site C project area for years. The Site C project went through a cooperative federal-provincial environmental assessment process that included extensive studies of effects of the project on wildlife during project construction and operations.