Environmental Management

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 545–555 | Cite as

Evolution of environmental impact assessment as applied to watershed modification projects in Canada

  • Herman J. Dirschl
  • Nicholas S. Novakowski
  • M. Husain Sadar
Environmental Auditing


This article reviews the application of environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures and practices to three watershed modification projects situaled in western Canada. These ventures were justified for accelerating regional economic development, and cover the period during which public concerns for protecting the environment rapidly made their way into the national political agenda. An historical account and analysis of the situation, therefore, seems desirable in order to understand the development of EIA processes, practices, and methodologies since the start of construction of the first project in 1961. This study concludes that there has been good progress in predicting and evaluating environmental and related social impacts of watershed modification proposals. However, a number of obstacles need to be overcome before EIA can firmly establish itself as an effective planning tool. These difficulties include jurisdictional confusions and conflicts, division of authority and responsibility in designing and implementing appropriate mitigative and monitoring measures, lack of tested EIA methodologies, and limited availability of qualified human resources. A number of conclusions and suggestions are offered so that future watershed modification proposals may be planned and implemented in a more environmentally sustainable fashion. These include: (1) EIA processes must be completed before irrevocable decisions are made. (2) Any major intrusion into a watershed is likely to impact on some major components of the ecosystem(s). (3) Mitigation costs must form part of the benefit-cost analysis of any project proposal. (4) Interjurisdictional cooperation is imperative where watersheds cross political boundaries. (5) The EIA process is a public process, hence public concerns must be dealt with fairly. (6) The role of science in the EIA process must be at arms length from project proponents and regulators, and allowed to function in the interest of the protection of the environment and public health and safety.

Key words

Environmental impact Assessment process Watershed modification Impoundment River diversion 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herman J. Dirschl
    • 1
  • Nicholas S. Novakowski
    • 1
  • M. Husain Sadar
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental-Social Advisory Services (ESAS) IncorporatedOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Federal Environmental Assessment Review OfficeHullCanada

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