Initial environmental recommendations for Phase 1 released for Saskatoon Freeway
An environmental study for Phase 1 of the proposed Saskatoon Freeway includes recommendations for reducing impact on wildlife and natural habitat, as well as future work that would be needed as part of the detailed design phase.
The comprehensive study documents land use, soil types, vegetation, fish, wildlife, and heritage resources found along Phase 1 the proposed freeway route. The nearly 200-page document was completed by environmental planners and biologists with SNC-Lavalin Inc. – and reviewed by representatives from Meewasin Valley Authority, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, and the City of Saskatoon.
Considerations for routing and mitigation measures covered in the study included three important areas in Phase 1:
- The South Saskatchewan River Valley
- The Hudson Bay Swale
- Wanuskewin Heritage Park
The study discovered helpful measures such as bridging over sensitive animal habitats and wetlands, as well as the construction of wildlife crossings so animals can move freely after the freeway is built. Design alternatives to minimize noise and light pollution from the freeway are also recommended as part of the study, in order reduce sensory impacts on wildlife.
Other key study recommendations to reduce wildlife and habitat impacts include:
- Reviewing both local and regional environments
- Maintaining existing drainage in wetlands
- Minimizing the number or size of abutments and piers needed for the bridge crossing over the South Saskatchewan River
- Timing any construction to minimize impact on animals and habitat
- Choosing a freeway route that avoids existing native prairie as much as possible
- Using habitat and wetland compensation to offset any impacts
The study identifies a series of additional surveys that are yet to be completed during the functional study – focusing on wetland classifications, animal species, and a heritage impact assessment – which will help the design team better understand the freeway’s environmental impact.
This functional study will be used by environmental experts and design engineers to continue detailed design required prior to construction. Currently, there is no timeline for construction. Once the functional planning study is complete, the Ministry of Highways will decide when and how to proceed. At a minimum, construction is not expected to start for 10 years, based on current population projections for Saskatoon and area.
A copy of the complete study is available at: https://saskatoonfreeway.org/reports/