Biophysical Assessment Standards and Requirements
It is one of the Objectives stated in the Foothills County MDP 2010 that the Municipality "require, where necessary, a biophysical assessment as part of the development process for the purposes of reducing the impact of development on the natural environment". Where a biophysical assessment is defined as follows:
A review of land prepared by an environmental scientist or other qualified professional that identifies and assesses the environmental significance and sensitivity of the lands, and recommends appropriate measures for protecting the environmental features, which may be incorporated into the subdivision review process.
Currently the only policy that the Foothills County has with respect to when a biophysical assessment may be required is in the Environmental Conservation and Open Space section of the MDP 2010. It reads as follows:
Proponents of development or redesignation of land which the County believes would be located wholly or partly within Environmentally Significant Areas, shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the County that the proposals would not jeopardize or significantly damage the characteristics of the resource. To this end, the County may commission specialized studies, such as a biophysical assessment, geotechnical assessment and/or environmental impact assessment by an appropriate qualified Professional at the proponent's expense.
Foothills County is currently developing a more comprehensive and specific policy that will describe in what instances biophysical assessments may be required as part of the development approval process. It will also mandate what the required components of a biophysical assessment acceptable to the County will be.
Components of Biophysical Assessments
A biophysical assessment, when required, should be prepared according to the following outline:
This section outlines the purpose and scope of the project, and could include the general overview of the subject lands and surrounding area and a general description of the proposed project.
This portion of the assessment outlines the various methods used for collecting and analyzing the data. This section will include a statement as to the potential limitations of the study and whether additional study is warranted or recommended. It should also describe the credentials of the study team.
3. Assessment Results or Inventory
The results section goes through all the pertinent information that was discovered through the assessment process. It will generally be divided into sections such as:
Some studies will also include sections for environmentally sensitive areas, hazard lands, wetlands, aquatic resources and fisheries, important habitat or wildlife movement corridors as deemed appropriate.
4. Potential Environmental Impacts
This section of the report outlines how the proposed development could impact the subject lands. Both positive and negative impacts should be included.
Proponents could elect to put the general description of the project at the beginning of this section instead of in the introduction section of the report (but must include the description in one of these two sections).
5. Suggested Mitigation Measures or Conservation Recommendations
This section will outline recommendations for mitigating the identified negative environmental impacts. The dedication of environmental reserves or easements or even municipal reserves on sensitive areas is the most commonly suggested mitigation measure. Developers could be encouraged to go further though by providing building envelopes or developable areas within lots so that larger portions of the site remain in their natural state, or they could be asked to refurbish or restore natural areas of the site as part of the development approvals process. A description of how potential positive impacts could be enhanced would also be appropriate.
This section should also include an analysis of any possible adverse effects for which no satisfactory mitigative measure exists.
A conclusion paragraph can be a useful summary of report findings, though it is sometimes omitted.
If a review of existing study was used as part of the assessment or to support recommendations or conclusions then a section referencing these materials is suggested.