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Various resource-based industries (forestry and mining) and First Nations are developing infrastructure and access and all season roads in Canada’s northern landscapes. Often these infrastructures and roads are located and pass through wetlands, such as fen, bogs and swamps, and thus present numerous environmental and operational challenges for planner and road manager. In addition, the effects of these infrastructures and roads on the many ecological functions of wetlands are of increasing concern to First Nations and resource-based industries, government and conservation organizations.

Water issues continue to expand and become more complex for planning and development projects and Surnorte has position itself as a genuine consultation and highly specialized knowledge in the areas of geomatic and environmental planning. All this scientific and technical knowledge is supported by the latest environmental technologies, especially from the science of hydrological modeling (Wet Area Mapping, WAM) and water management.

The WAM products (Trial, Locate, Flood, Spill and Monitor) are, first and foremost, an indicator of hydrological risk. Output predicts soil conditions when soils are at, or near, field capacity. In other words, the mapping products predict field conditions during the wetter months when considerations of hydrological risk are more relevant.

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In detail, the WAM process performs meter-by-meter determinations of seasonal and changes in water flow channel networks, wet and dry areas, at the surface and subsurface level. In this, WAM generates the metric cartographic depth-to-water (DTW)) from Digital Terrain Models (DTMs). This index can also be used as a means to locate the extent of the areas that are prone to flood, either due to high precipitation and snowmelt amounts, introduction of flow blockages (ice jams, beaver dams, collapsed or otherwise blocked culverts). It also allows for the determination of water discharge at any point of concern along inland waterways, based on automated upslope water accumulation area calculations per actual or anticipated mm-per-day storm events.

While WAM does not provide technical information as needed to follow specific engineering protocols, is provides easy-to-visualize information as to where and how – in principle – each land-based asset needs to be managed and protected against particular water-related risks. In this capacity, WAM-generated data layers, tools, and maps have been welcomed as must-have information sources for local to regional planning purposes, from operational to strategic perspectives. Examples refer to operations layout in forest operations (harvest blocks, access trails, silvicultural planning), evaluation of existing transport routes and planning new routes, learning how to contain spills, assessing specific habitat distributions across the land, etc.