A remediation plan by Teck Trail operation will extend as far north as Grohman Narrows even though there is no sign of smelter-related contamination in the area.
It’s part of the company’s response to an assessment that found vegetation risks can’t be ruled out on 7,900 hectares of the lower Columbia valley.
“It’s not that those 7,900 hectares are contaminated,” Nelson-based ecological consultant Marlene Machmer said. “It’s that based on looking at the vegetation one cannot say there were no effects from the smelter emissions.”
The potentially affected lands stretch from Genelle south to the US border and represent 18.5 per cent of the total area of interest, which extends as far north as Castlegar.
Under BC contaminated site regulations, Teck has to come up with a remediation plan for that area. But Machmer says the company wants to develop a more comprehensive plan that almost reaches Nelson.
“Teck’s rationale for looking at the larger area is that there are a number of opportunities within the broader landscape for restoration, enhancement, and conservation,” she said. “The expanded area is not necessarily being looked at for remediation, but for opportunities.”
The wider area allows the company more flexibility to offset impacts in certain locations by restoring others. However, Teck is still discussing with the Ministry of Environment what a potential offset is worth.
“If we develop a two-acre wetland in a location which is prime habitat, what would an offset be based on the value of that wetland? We don’t know yet,” company biologist Dave DeRosa said.
He cited the example of a new mine whose footprint is offset with enhanced or protected lands elsewhere. “That’s what this program is about. We want to bring what was potentially impacted back to a state where we’ve caused no net loss in the valley.”
Specific projects haven’t been named but may include improving soil conditions and habitat preservation.
DeRosa said no Teck contaminants are known to exist at Grohman Narrows or in the Nelson area, but the company has land holdings along the Kootenay River which might prove useful to the overall plan. Other private landowners will also likely be involved.
Machmer and DeRosa appeared before the Regional District of Central Kootenay board Thursday.