By: Graham Sennhauser
Over the years I have had the privilege of contributing to some of Scotland’s largest civil engineering transport projects, from the M80 Stepps to Haggs, to the Clackmannanshire Bridge and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, and more recently, relatively speaking, the Queensferry Crossing.
Last week marked the official opening of the Queensferry Crossing, or the Forth Replacement Crossing as we originally knew it, back when the project first started in 2008. Like many other professionals, who have written about their participation in this land-mark project, I thought I would take a moment to reflect upon my own (small) contribution to this historic bridge.
My role on the project, as terrestrial ecology team lead, was for managing one of the largest team of ecologists in the history of my career, and for ensuring the satisfactory completion of the many ecological surveys needed to inform a future environmental impact assessment, in support of the project. However, the real challenge that spring and summer was making sure there was sufficient support and resource to guarantee all the required terrestrial surveys were completed in one single survey season; a task that gave me many a sleepless night, I can assure you!
However, being a busy team manager was only one part of my role on this project, as I was also responsible for co-ordinating, writing and delivering the project’s complex terrestrial ecology chapter, and it’s many supporting technical reports. Having been ultimately responsible for the production of the three ecology chapters and supporting appendices for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, I knew producing the ecology chapter for the Queensferry Crossing was going to be an even bigger challenge due to the demanding project programme.
Production of the ecology chapter and it’s many supporting technical reports commenced as soon as the terrestrial field surveys were completed. The reports were written by the relevant survey lead, with support from their team - the many ecologists who had contributed to the field surveys. My role was to ensure the lead ecologists were supported and the reports were completed to the requirement standard and agreed project deadline. It is worth noting that the completed reports were of such a volume that when the environmental statement was published, the ecology reports were presented in a dedicated appendix!
Writing the ecology chapter took a core team of three ecologists most of the autumn and early winter to draft the chapter and to review and prepare the technical reports for publication. From a professional perspective, preparing the ecology chapter was actually very satisfying but nevertheless challenging, because it gave us the first opportunity to write an ecological impact assessment following, at that time, the latest version of the CIEEM’s approach to ecological impact assessment, which focussed a non-matrix assessment approach – an approach we still follow to this day.
Despite an end of year deadline for a first draft of the chapter, it still took many months to complete the required edits, have the chapter reviewed by the projects ecology discipline lead and complete it ready for publication along with the rest of the environmental statement. I still remember at the time being genuinely thankful I was not responsible for the marine chapter and it’s supporting reports as well, not to mention the three Habitat Regulation Appraisals that were needed in support of the project.
Although it has been seven years since I worked on this project, it is with no amount of professional satisfaction and a little pride (if I am to be honest) that I watched the opening ceremony this week on my television, and reflected on many memories of working on such a challenging project with a fantastic project team.
Image Credit: Transport Scotland & The Forth Bridges