Clear Span Bridges
This Operational Statement applies to the construction of small-scale bridge structures that completely span a watercourse without altering the stream bed or bank, and that are a maximum of two lanes wide. The bridge structure (including bridge approaches, abutments, footings, and armouring) is built entirely above the ordinary high water mark (HWM) (see definition below). A clear-span bridge is often preferred to structures that are placed within the stream bed and therefore result in loss of fish habitat or alteration of natural channel processes.
Clear-span bridge construction has the potential to negatively affect riparian habitat. Riparian vegetation occurs adjacent to the watercourse and directly contributes to fish habitat by providing shade, cover and areas for spawning and food production. Only the vegetation required to accommodate operational and safety concerns for the crossing structure and approaches, within the right-of-way, should be removed. Stormwater run-off and the use of machinery can introduce deleterious substances to the water body and result in erosion and sedimentation.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for protecting fish and fish habitat across Canada. Under the
Fisheries Act no one may carry out a work or undertaking that will cause the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat unless it has been authorized by DFO. By following the conditions and measures set out below you will be in compliance with subsection 35(1) of the
The purpose of this Operational Statement is to describe the conditions under which it is applicable to your project and the measures to incorporate into your project in order to avoid negative impacts to fish habitat and maintain passage of fish. You may proceed with your clear-span bridge project without a DFO review when you meet the following conditions:
- the bridge is placed entirely above the HWM,
- the bridge is not located on meander bends, braided streams, alluvial fans, active flood plains, or any other area that is inherently unstable and may result in the alteration of natural steam functions or erosion and scouring of the bridge structure,
- the bridge is no greater than two lanes in width and does not encroach on the natural channel width by the placement of abutments, footings or rock armouring below the HWM,
- the work does not include realigning the watercourse,
- there is no alteration of the stream bed or banks or infilling of the channel, and
- you incorporate the Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Constructing Clear-Span Bridges listed below in this Operational Statement.
If you cannot meet all of the conditions listed above and cannot incorporate all of the measures listed below then your project may result in a violation of subsection 35(1) of the
Fisheries Act and you could be subject to enforcement action. In this case, you should contact your Conservation Authority, or the DFO office in your area (see Ontario DFO office list) or Parks Canada if the project is located within its jurisdiction, including the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal, if you wish to obtain an opinion on the possible options you should consider to avoid contravention of the
Fisheries Act. For activities carried out under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, the requirements of this Operational Statement are addressed through an existing agreement and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is the first point of contact.
You are required to respect all municipal, provincial or federal legislation that applies to the work being carried out in relation to this Operational Statement. The activities undertaken in this Operational Statement must also comply with the Species at Risk Act (www.sararegistry.gc.ca). If you have questions regarding this Operational Statement, please contact one of the agencies listed above.
We ask that you notify DFO, preferably 10 working days before starting your work by filling out and sending the Ontario Operational Statement notification form (http://www.dfo-mpo.ca/regions/central/habitat/os-eo/provinces-territories-territoires/on/os-eo20-eng.htm) to the DFO office in your area. This information is requested in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the work carried out in relation to this Operational Statement.
Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Constructing Clear-Span Bridges
- Use existing trails, roads, or cut lines wherever possible to avoid disturbance to the riparian vegetation.
- While this Operational Statement does not apply to the clearing of riparian vegetation, the removal of select plants within the road right-of-way (ROW) may be required to meet operational and/or safety concerns for the crossing structure and the approaches. This removal should be kept to a minimum and within the road or utility right-of-way. When practicable, prune or top the vegetation instead of uprooting.
- Design and construct approaches so that they are perpendicular to the watercourse to minimize loss or disturbance to riparian vegetation.
- Design the bridge so that stormwater runoff from the bridge deck, side slopes and approaches is directed into a retention pond or vegetated area to remove suspended solids, dissipate velocity and prevent sediment and other deleterious substances from entering the watercourse.
- Generally there are no restrictions on timing for the construction of clear-span structures as they do not involve in-water work. However, if there are any activities with the potential to disrupt sensitive fish life stages (e.g., crossing of watercourse by machinery), these should adhere to appropriate fisheries timing windows (see the Ontario In-Water Construction Timing Windows).
- Machinery fording the watercourse to bring equipment required for construction to the opposite side is limited to a one-time event (over and back) and should occur only if an existing crossing at another location is not available or practical to use. A Temporary Stream Crossing Operational Statement is also available.
- 6.1. If minor rutting is likely to occur, stream bank and bed protection methods (e.g., swamp mats, pads) should be used provided they do not constrict flows or block fish passage.
- 6.2. Grading of the stream banks for the approaches should not occur.
- 6.3. If the stream bed and banks are steep and highly erodible (e.g., dominated by organic materials and silts) and erosion and degradation are likely to occur as a result of equipment fording, then a temporary crossing structure or other practice should be used to protect these areas.
- 6.4. The one-time fording should adhere to fisheries timing windows (see Measure 5).
- 6.5. Fording should occur under low flow conditions and not when flows are elevated due to local rain events or seasonal flooding.
- Install effective sediment and erosion control measures before starting work to prevent the entry of sediment into the watercourse. Inspect them regularly during the course of construction and make all necessary repairs if any damage occurs.
- Operate machinery on land (above the HWM) and in a manner that minimizes disturbance to the banks of the watercourse.
- 8.1. Machinery is to arrive on site in a clean condition and is to be maintained free of fluid leaks.
- 8.2. Wash, refuel and service machinery and store fuel and other materials for the machinery away from the water to prevent any deleterious substance from entering the water.
- 8.3. Keep an emergency spill kit on site in case of fluid leaks or spills from machinery.
- 8.4. Restore banks to original condition if any disturbance occurs.
- Use measures to prevent deleterious substances such as new concrete (i.e., it is pre-cast, cured and dried before use near the watercourse), grout, paint, ditch sediment and preservatives from entering the watercourse.
- Stabilize any waste materials removed from the work site to prevent them from entering the watercourse. This could include covering spoil piles with biodegradable mats or tarps or planting them with preferably native grass or shrubs.
- Vegetate any disturbed areas by planting and seeding preferably with native trees, shrubs or grasses and cover such areas with mulch to prevent erosion and to help seeds germinate. If there is insufficient time remaining in the growing season, the site should be stabilized (e.g., cover exposed areas with erosion control blankets to keep the soil in place and prevent erosion) and vegetated the following spring.
- 11.1. Maintain effective sediment and erosion control measures until re-vegetation of disturbed areas is achieved.
Ordinary high water mark (HWM) – The usual or average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and remains for sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing waters (rivers, streams) this refers to the “active channel/bank-full level” which is often the 1:2 year flood flow return level. In inland lakes, wetlands or marine environments it refers to those parts of the water body bed and banks that are frequently flooded by water so as to leave a mark on the land and where the natural vegetation changes from predominately aquatic vegetation to terrestrial vegetation (excepting water tolerant species). For reservoirs this refers to normal high operating levels (Full Supply Level).
For the Great Lakes this refers to the 80th percentile elevation above chart datum as described in DFO’s Fish Habitat and Determining the High Water Mark on Lakes.
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