Revegetation as a method for dust mitigation along reservoir drawdown zones




May, Micah

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Large-scale industrial development, such as construction of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs, can have long-lasting environmental and social impacts on communities and surrounding ecosystems. Williston Reservoir, located in northern British Columbia, is one example where intense wind erosion and fugitive dust impacts the local community of Tsay Keh Dene and surrounding area. To try and address the dust impacts, BC Hydro, the public utility that operates the reservoir, and Tsay Keh Dene Nation, have established the Williston Dust Mitigation program with the goal of reducing fugitive dust emissions along the reservoir. Dust mitigation trials have been implemented for over three decades, but efforts have struggled to scale due to factors like remoteness, challenging reservoir environment conditions, cost, and the capacity to scale mitigation solutions. To help inform the WDMP’s efforts, I investigated how vegetation may be used to mitigate dust at the necessary scale to address the issue. My first study involved conducting greenhouse and field experiments to select plant species suitable for revegetation efforts, which found cover crop species, like Secale cereale and Avena sativa, to be best suited for annual seeding in regions of the drawdown zone that flood every year, while some native grasses like Elymus trachycaulus and Elymus lanceolatus may be good candidates for higher elevation regions that do not flood every year. The second study investigated seeding rates and the application of fertilizer, along with measuring dust emissions across a 120-hectare beach to determine how varying treatments influenced total vegetation cover, and how vegetation cover impacted fugitive dust emissions. Vegetation cover was found to significantly reduce fugitive dust emissions and the application of fertilizer significantly increased vegetation cover. This suggests that fertilizer should be applied in moderation with cover crop planting to bolster early plant growth, but that the application be properly calculated so that excess nutrients do not leach to into the reservoir environment and costs are reduced. Overall, using cover crops in annually flooded areas of Williston Reservoir appears to be the most cost-effective dust mitigation treatment, while restoration efforts in higher drawdown zone areas using native plants should be explored further.



Reservoir, Revegetation, Hydropower, Dust Control, Cover Crops, Fertilizer, Drawdown Zone