+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 42-03F

Seismic Operations in Road Rights of Way

January 1, 2003
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2006
Active Status:
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the seismic industry has chosen to utilize public roadways in municipal districts and counties on which to undertake their testing, moving away from the general use of private lands for testing;AND WHEREAS seismic testing activities on the road rights of way create safety issues for the motoring public while they are conducting testing on the road surface or have their lines across the roads and equipment in the ditches;AND WHEREAS testing activities in road rights of way cause potential hazards for users such as pedestrians, horseback riders, or livestock walking in the right of way where shot holes that have not been properly filled, i.e. by stepping in holes they could break limbs;AND WHEREAS use of the road right of way in unseasonable weather increases the maintenance requirements and causes difficulty for other road users;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to implement policy or legislation to restrict the use of public road rights of way to seismic investigative operations unless it can be shown that there is a need based on non-access to other private lands or the terrain of the adjacent lands warrants use of the public road right of way.

Member Background:

Prior to 1999, seismic companies conducted the majority of their testing on private lands and elected to stay off statutory road allowances unless absolutely necessary. In cases where they could not come to adequate arrangements with landowners or if the physical terrain of the properties were such that it was too difficult to conduct the test on private lands, they would approach municipalities to do testing on public roadways/rights of ways. As oil and gas activities began to increase dramatically, more and more issues arose between seismic companies and municipalities surrounding the way programs were being conducted, a major point of contention being the testing in road rights of way. Over the past several years, many seismic operators have deviated from these guidelines to the point that the basic requirement of notification prior to commencement of a program was not adhered to. Seismic companies were using road rights of way without restriction. Several municipalities took exception to the unrestricted use by seismic operators of the road right of way and passed bylaws stipulating requirements for seismic companies to conduct their testing within the public road system.Recognizing the need to resolve this issue, in 1999 Alberta Environment created a task force, inviting participation from industry and municipalities, through the AAMD&C. This task force was to establish processes that would improve the way seismic business was conducted and communication with municipalities. While never fully explaining to the committee why the seismic companies needed to be able to conduct their testing in road rights of way, the committee did put together several recommendations that would allow seismic activity to proceed in a safer manner. After observing the process over the past several years, it is apparent that the industry is not adhering to the protocol, with the result that the travelling public are once again being put at risk. Other users of the road rights of way are also at risk of injury from stepping in shot holes that have not been filled in appropriately. Pedestrians, horseback riders, livestock in general and even wildlife who may use the ditches for their activities are potential victims should they happen to step into one of these shot holes. Liability issues then arise for the municipality.Although the efforts and work of the AAMD&C members on the Task Force Committee should be applauded for the work that was done, unfortunately some of the seismic operators have chosen to disregard the procedures and are again causing problems. We therefore recommend that further work be done on this issue and we would encourage the AAMD&C to work with government to establish regulations where public road rights of way would be restricted to seismic testing, except in the extreme cases where arrangements with landowners cannot be made or where the physical terrain of the lands makes testing difficult.

RMA Background:

The AAMDC has no resolutions in effect with respect to this issue. However, the association participates in the Energy Sector Road Dialogue with Municipal Affairs, Environment, Transportation, various oil and gas sector associations, and six member municipalities. This group has developed a voluntary notification process for seismic companies and a road notification and road use agreement; elements of the seismic notification process were incorporated into the Exploration Regulation, and are now mandatory.

Provincial Ministries:
Municipal Affairs
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