The engineers and geoscientists at J.D. Mollard and Associates (2010) Limited have located, terrain mapped and assessed over 40,000 kilometres of highway, rail line, pipeline and transmission line routes throughout Canada and around the world. Many of these routes are located in northern Canada and Alaska, where harsh environments and ice-rich permafrost terrains present special challenges to route selection and construction.
For over six decades, the staff has carried out route selection studies made from identifying and evaluating good and bad terrain conditions appearing in 3D B&W stereoscopic airphotos, usually initially at scales of about 1:60,000. Additional information is culled from geologic, topographic, soil and landuse maps and from networking and related field investigation studies. In the last decade, our remotely sensed route studies have been augmented and enhanced from company expertise in digital geospatial mapping, satellite image processing and analysis, and GIS data integration and management.
It has become increasingly necessary to take into account route selection controls other than adverse terrain conditions and multiple hazard constraints. These route selection controls include environmentally sensitive lands, archeological sites, species at risk, protected lands, as well as economic, social, cultural and political considerations.
Across Canada's northlands there are many terrain controls on route selection. These controls are identified from stereoscopic airphotos and from airphoto strip mosaics showing competing alternative route corridors and right-of-ways within them. Northern terrain controls involve avoiding or if this is not possible, contending with such problems as ice-rich permafrost terrains and various peatland types with and without ground ice. Unstable slopes, difficult topography and stream crossings, the distribution of small and large lakes, excessive rock cuts, and scarce earthfill borrow and aggregate sources are often other factors controlling route location. In recent years, projects has been done to assess the effects of global warming on northern route location, construction and long-term road maintenance.
A high percentage of total route lengths studied have been located in northern landscapes in Canada and northern Alaska, where the vegetation changes southward from tundra to taiga to boreal forest, and where there are few large population centres. Here are just four of the numerous route selection and terrain mapping projects that have been completed totaling thousands of kilometres, and originating in the High Arctic:
- A southerly rail line and an easterly coastal pipeline route. Both lines start at Dead Horse on Alaska's North Slope close to the Arctic Ocean. An alternative inland pipeline route runs south and then east, passing by small First Nations settlements and terrain features, some having interesting names: Old Women Creek, Howling Dog, Burnt Paw, Old Crow Flats and Rat River Pass - located along a proposed route alignment from Dead Horse to the Mackenzie Valley on the inland alternative.
- A gas pipeline several thousands of kilometres long. The line originates at Barrow Dome on the northern tip of Melville Island in the High Arctic, where there are large untapped reserves of natural gas.
- A rail line to a proposed new iron mine site. The line begins at a port near Pond Inlet on Baffin Island's northeastern coastline.
Engineers and geoscientists at J.D. Mollard and Associates (2010) Limited have identified and assessed terrain conditions along several different types of proposed, competing and constructed routes, each having different total lengths. Most of the routes were also reconnoitered from helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft.
- 25,000 km of oil and gas pipeline routes in northern Canada.
- 6,700 km of international pipeline routes in Alaska, California, Nevada, Australia, Sumatra, Pakistan, Peru, Siberia and Russia.
- 9,000 km of highways and roads in western Canada, including 2,000 km of all-weather highways in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
- 4,500 km of electric power transmission line routes in northern and southern Canada.
- 1,400 km of rail line routes in northern Canada.
- 150 km of rehabilitated main canal route in southern Alberta.