Esquimalt Harbour Projects - Frequently Asked Questions

Dredging excavator


An excavator dredging and loading sediment in the Esquimalt Harbour

Q: What is involved in the remediation process?

Remediation projects require careful investigation, analysis, and planning to ensure that contaminants are safely removed and disposed of.

First, environmental investigations are done to identify contaminated areas and how deep they are embedded into the seabed. This information is then used to determine the best course of action for removal.

Next, dredging is done to remove as much of the contaminated sediments as possible. This is done by using a clamshell bucket attached to a crane or excavator. The removed sediments are then processed and transported by a barge or truck to a facility for disposal or treatment. In most cases, areas that are dredged are backfilled with a clean sand cover to enhance the natural recovery process.

In areas near the shore where dredging cannot be done, contaminated sediments are “capped” with engineered layers of sand, gravel, and armoured rock to cover the contamination and limit its exposure  to humans and marine life.

Q: What are the benefits of the remediation projects?

Remediation work in Esquimalt Harbour is an investment in the future that creates a number of benefits for the region, including:

  • „  Reducing health risks associated with seafood affected by historical contaminants;
  • „  Reducing ecological risks associated with contaminated sediments;
  • „  Minimizing potential recontamination;
  • „  Enabling long-term sustainment of Royal Canadian Navy operations in Esquimalt; and
  • „  Generating jobs and economic opportunities.

Q: How will residents living near Esquimalt Harbour be affected by the projects?

As this project is in the industrial portion of Esquimalt Harbour, we anticipate minimal impacts to the day-to-day activities of nearby residents. The work will mainly affect the CFB Esquimalt Dockyard. As work progresses, there will likely be increased noise and light during working hours, and occasionally overnight.

We will continue to provide the community with regular project updates.

Q: Will remediation or construction activities affect the health of the people living nearby?

No health impacts are anticipated for residents living on the Esquimalt Harbour waterfront or in neighbourhoods near CFB Esquimalt. Contractor activities will be carefully monitored by DND, and we will make every effort to minimize any disruption to our neighbours.

Q: How and where will disposal of contaminated sediments occur?

To ensure the safety of the surrounding environment, all contaminated sediments removed from Esquimalt Harbour during remediation work will be safely transported to facilities that are licensed to accept contaminated sediments.  Ocean disposal of these types of contaminated sediments is prohibited. Disposal facilities are selected by individual contractors as part of an open, fair, and transparent procurement process and will not be known until after contracts are awarded. All contractors performing remediation work are required to develop a disposal plan, which includes selecting a licensed disposal facility. These plans are approved by DND and Defence Construction Canada, and are strictly followed throughout the duration of the work.

Q: What steps is DND taking to ensure the protection of marine life in the harbour?

We are committed to greening our defence operations and mitigating the environmental effects of our military activities.

To ensure that work in the harbour is completed in an environmentally responsible manner and that we are taking all possible steps to protect marine life, we are working closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to assess and mitigate our environmental impacts in the harbour. We also employ third-party environmental monitoring specialists through each stage of our work to ensure we meet all necessary environmental regulations.

For example, during underwater rock blasting for infrastructure projects, we watch for marine mammals in the harbour and monitor underwater sound levels to ensure we minimize any disturbance to marine life. We also use bubble curtains, which use bubbles as a barrier, to help keep fish out of areas where we are working. Lastly, to compensate for disturbances to fish habitat, we built a series of underwater reefs near the western entrance of the harbour in 2012. All of these activities are coordinated with DFO.

Q: What’s being done to support a healthy future for Esquimalt Harbour?

Environmental practices in Esquimalt Harbour have substantially improved over the years. CFB Esquimalt has implemented strict environmental practices and procedures for its use of the harbour, and all harbour users are taking active steps to better manage environmental issues and implement mitigation strategies to prevent contamination.

Our remediation projects will considerably reduce exposure of marine life to contaminants and support a healthier, more diverse habitat for marine communities.

In 2012, DND constructed three underwater reefs near the western entrance to Esquimalt Harbour to compensate for disturbances to fish habitat during remediation and construction work. Underwater surveys in 2016 showed the presence of a large range of ecologically important species at the reefs.

During remediation and construction activities we monitor aquatic habitats, marine animals, sediments, and surface water to minimize any impacts to the environment. After construction and remediation, we monitor the effectiveness of new habitats and the health of the harbour over time.

Esquimalt Harbour Map

Comments or Questions?

Members of the public are encouraged to ask questions or share feedback about current and upcoming Esquimalt Harbour infrastructure and remediation projects.

  • „By email:
  • „By mail:
    Base Public Affairs
    Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt
    PO Box 17000 Stn Forces
    Victoria, BC  V9A 7N2

Input received is being used to identify concerns and to help develop appropriate strategies throughout the planning, design, and construction processes for each project. As work progresses, DND will continue to provide updates about the projects.