New Bridge on the St. Lawrence: Protecting our Fisheries
Opened to traffic in 1962, Champlain Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in North America. Ongoing wear has led to the current need to build a new bridge over the St. Lawrence River linking Brossard to Montréal. Work at the site was started in June 2015, and the bridge is scheduled to open by December 2018.
Project subject to numerous conditions
An environmental assessment, in which staff from the Fisheries Protection Program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) took active part, was conducted by Infrastructure Canada.
DFO analyzed the project impacts in detail and strove to minimize them. For example, work restriction periods were defined to protect fish use of sensitive habitats. A restoration program for the affected habitats will also be implemented. To minimize the impact on fish movement, DFO also required the construction of three fishways in the large jetty to be positioned on the east shore of Île des Sœurs throughout the duration of construction.
Serious and inevitable harm to fish requiring the issue of authorizations under the Fisheries Act in 2015 was, however, associated with the permanent structures of the new bridge (more than 7,000 m2) and major temporary structures (nearly 130,000 m2). Measures to offset these impacts are consequently necessary. These significant offsetting measures include improving the quality and availability of breeding areas, nursery sites and other habitats for the walleye, lake sturgeon, smallmouth bass and northern pike in the St. Lawrence River, in the Montréal area, as well as in Rivière des Prairies. As a result, the habitats developed will be not only in the same area as those damaged but also of a similar nature and will target the very species affected by the work.
Follow-up and monitoring
Extensive follow-up is also required to confirm the effectiveness of the mitigation and offsetting measures and to gauge the actual impact of the work. In addition to reviewing the proponent’s follow-up actions, DFO has been conducting frequent worksite inspections. These inspections started when work began at the site in June 2015 and will continue through 2021.
Dominic Boula and Serge-Éric Picard