Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation

Update

Included in this update:

  • Wetland Replacement Fact Sheet (explains changes to the wetland replacement options)
  • Wetland Replacement Fee Form (for submission to the Government of Alberta with wetland replacement payment – see Wetland Replacement Fact Sheet)
  • Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive (update to include new wetland replacement program)
  • Directive for Permittee-Responsible Wetland Construction in Alberta
  • Alberta Guide to Wetland Construction in Stormwater Management Facilities
  • Wetland Application Checklist (update)

Notice:

As the result of a Government of Alberta office building fire, the Air Photo Distribution Centre is unable to distribute digital air photos until further notice.

In the interim, applications requiring air photo submissions must do the following:

  • Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report (WAIR) – use Google Earth and other available imagery sources, plus rely on the field delineation pathway as outlined in the Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive
  • Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Form (WAIF) – use Google Earth and other available imagery sources
  • Include a statement that this assessment pathway was affected by the Air Photo Distribution Centre closure
Inverted pyramid diagram with three levels: Avoid, Minimize and Replace

Overview

Under the Alberta Wetland Policy, it is the onus of the applicant to avoid wetland impacts from planning the activity to submitting a regulatory application, and to justify wetland impacts where avoidance is not practicable.

For further details, see:

Before you submit an application

Review the Wetland Application Checklist before submitting an application to ensure it is complete and meets the Policy’s requirements.

Questions related to activities within a wetland that are regulated by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) can be submitted to:

Questions related to Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) regulated energy resource activities within a wetland, can be submitted to:

Wetland Policy requirements

Planning and Legislative Alignment

  1. Preliminary desktop review

    The first step in planning is to perform a preliminary desktop review (see Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive) to identify all potential wetlands and to consider how wetland avoidance can be achieved in the planning and design of the proposed activity.

  2. Legislative alignment and regulatory authorizations

    The next step is to determine what regulatory authorizations and/or notifications are needed in order to conduct the activity, and to conduct a review of legislation that needs to be met for the activity, including acts, regulations, policies and plans under federal, provincial and municipal jurisdiction.

    The following provincial authorizations are required when a proposed activity may have impacts on a wetland(s):

    • a Public Lands Disposition or Approval/Authorization, where the activity that may impact a wetland is either located on public land or is a permanent and naturally occurring body of water under Section 3 of the Public Lands Act
    • a Water Act Authorization (Approval, Licence, or Notice) for all activities within a waterbody, unless the activity is exempt under the Water Act’s Water (Ministerial) Regulation
    • an Authorization under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, where the proposed activity that will impact a wetland is regulated by this Act
  3. Ownership

    Section 3 of the Public Lands Act deems that ownership of the bed and shores of permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water in the province belongs to the Government of Alberta.

    Correspondence with the department’s Water Boundaries technical experts, on the determination of ownership, must be attached to any application related to wetlands that may be permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water.

    The Guide for Assessing Permanence of Wetland Basins provides a standard methodology for assessing wetland permanence to support land ownership enquiries.

    Enquiries about the ownership to the bed and shore of a body of water can be submitted to:

  4. Planning tools

    The following provides additional support for planning an activity that may impact a wetland:

    Regulatory Requirements Guide: This guide outlines regulatory instruments and processes applicable to the Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation.

    Stepping Back from the Water: A beneficial management practices guide for new development near water bodies in Alberta’s settled region.

    Alberta Merged Wetland Inventory: The inventory digitally depicts wetlands for the 5 major classes in the Canadian Wetland Classification System: bog, fen, marsh, swamp and shallow open water.

    The Merged Wetland Inventory Status Map summarizes the data sources and resolutions for different portions of the province. The AMWI should be used for higher level planning and not to plan a site without doing a formal wetland assessment according to the Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive.

    Relative Wetland Value Map: Provides a preliminary (non-regulatory) estimate of relative wetland value (ABWRET-E) to assist with high level planning of wetland activities in the White Area of the province, such as a Community Area Structure Plan. This information can be accessed through:

Wetland Assessment

Applicants proposing an activity that will impact a wetland must submit a wetland assessment to the regulatory body with their application and all other required plans.

Any wetland assessment submitted to the regulatory body must be signed by an authenticating professional (see Wetland Professional Practice Standard section below).

A suite of guides and tools have been developed to support standardized wetland assessments for professionals.

Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive

This directive provides guidance on how to define a wetland and delineate its ecological extent. The directive also provides submission standards for creating a spatial file of a wetland.

The template below can be used to create a spatial shape file of a wetland:

Alberta Wetland Classification System

The Alberta Wetland Classification System groups wetlands into 5 major classes – bogs, fens, swamps, marshes and shallow open water wetlands – based on common physical, chemical and biological characteristics. The system subdivides each class by their vegetative form (for example, dominated by trees, shrubs, grass-like plants, aquatic plants) and type (for example, water permanence, pH, salinity).

Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report (WAIR)

For the majority of activities that may impact a wetland, a qualified professional or team must prepare a WAIR in accordance with the Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report Directive. The report must be signed by an authenticating professional and submitted as part of the regulatory application(s).

Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Form (WAIF)

The WAIF is used to support low risk activities regulated by AEP and the AER. For eligible activities, the form is to be used in place of the WAIR and must be authenticated by a qualified professional and submitted with a regulatory application(s) or notification and all other required plans. Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool - Desktop (ABWRET-D) results must be obtained from AEP and attached to this form.

Questions related to activities regulated by AEP can be submitted to:

Questions related to AER regulated energy resource activities within a wetland can be submitted to:

Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool – Actual (ABWRET-A)

ABWRET-A is a standardized method for assessing the function of wetlands using onsite observations and offsite spatial data. The relative value determined by ABWRET-A is used to inform decisions to avoid high-value wetlands and determines the replacement ratios and costs for wetland replacement where avoidance is not possible. ABWRET-A results must be obtained from AEP and attached with a WAIR as part of the Policy’s requirements.

ABWRET-A is calibrated for 2 broad regions in Alberta: the Parkland-Grassland Natural Regions and the Boreal-Foothills Natural Regions. The appropriate guide and form is determined by the natural region in which the wetland(s) is located. If the project is on the border of two natural regions, the Boreal-Foothills tool should be used if the majority of wetlands are peatlands and the Parkland-Grassland tool should be used if the majority of wetlands are mineral wetlands. The assessment must be completed during the growing season.

Parkland and Prairie Natural Region Wetlands

Boreal and Foothills Natural Region Wetlands

To obtain a relative wetland value for a wetland, submit the wetland shapefile(s) and the completed ABWRET-A Form to:

Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool – Desktop (ABWRET-D)

The Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool – Desktop (ABWRET-D) was developed to support wetland evaluation for eligible activities that require a WAIF. ABWRET-D results must be obtained from AEP and attached to a WAIF.

Wetland spatial files are used in the calculation and no field assessment is required. Delineation of wetland extent must be completed in accordance with one of the desktop pathways and follow the submission standards outlined in the Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive.

To obtain a relative wetland value with ABWRET-D, submit the wetland shapefile(s) and the completed ABWRET-D Form to:

Wetland Mitigation

Inverted pyramid diagram with three levels: Avoid, Minimize and Replace

Regulatory applicants are expected to demonstrate appropriate consideration for wetland avoidance and, where avoidance is not feasible, minimization of wetland impacts, in accordance with the Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive.

Key questions to ask when planning an activity that may impact a wetland:

  1. Can the wetland impacts be avoided?

    Applicants must demonstrate they have made a concerted effort to avoid wetland impacts.


  2. If avoidance isn’t possible, how can wetland impacts be minimized?

    Minimization is the second priority in the mitigation hierarchy when the applicant has demonstrated that avoidance is not possible.


  3. If there is a reclamation requirement, can a commitment be made to reclaim wetland area?

    Where an authorized activity has an explicit requirement to reclaim the impacted wetland area back to wetland, the applicant is not subject to wetland replacement requirements.


  4. What happens if permanent wetland impacts will occur?

    Wetland replacement is required when wetland impacts that cannot be avoided or minimized will result in permanent loss of wetland area. Options for wetland replacement include:

    • pay Wetland Replacement Fee to the Government of Alberta
    • undertake permittee-responsible construction or restoration

Important: Evidence of wetland avoidance, minimization and replacement must be included in the Wetland Assessment and Impact Report or Form.

Wetland Replacement

When wetland impacts cannot be avoided or minimized, and will result in permanent loss of wetland area, regulatory applicants can fulfill their replacement obligations through one of the following options.

Under the interim wetland replacement process, wetland replacement fees were paid by the applicant directly to an authorized third-party wetland replacement agent (WRA) that used these funds to restore wetlands. Now, the Government of Alberta administers the funds and disburses them to wetland restoration projects in priority areas.

The Government of Alberta will post opportunities for delivery agents to apply for wetland restoration funds on the Alberta Purchasing Connection. Wetland restoration will be completed by delivery agents under contractual agreements with the Government of Alberta. See the fact sheet for more details:

Information for applicants paying a wetland replacement fee

The following outlines the minimal changes made to the regulatory application process for applicants opting to pay the Wetland Replacement Fee:

  • the applicant follows the standard Water Act application process for wetland impacts outlined on the Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation web page and in the reference documents listed below
  • if the Water Act’s Designated Director agrees in principle to the proposed permanent wetland impacts, they will direct the applicant to send the Wetland Replacement Fee Form and payment to the Government of Alberta
  • the Government of Alberta reviews the wetland replacement fee information and sends a receipt of payment to the applicant
  • once proof of payment is received, a Water Act approval can be issued by the Designated Director

Application Submission

Activities regulated by AEP

Any activity that may impact a wetland requires either a Water Act Authorization or a Code of Practice Notice, unless the activity is exempt under the Water Act’s Water (Ministerial) Regulation.

For any activity potentially impacting a wetland that requires a Public Lands Act disposition, applicants must submit their application package, including a Water Act application and a Wetland Assessment and Impact Report or Form, through the Electronic Disposition System (EDS).

For information on how to submit a Public Lands Act disposition application, please see:

If the activity does not involve Public Lands, a Water Act application or Code of Practice Notice must be submitted with a Wetland Assessment and Impact Report or Form and all other required plans directly to the Regulatory Approvals Centre and not through EDS.

The following documents and links support the application submission.

AEP application processes and forms

  1. Electronic Disposition System

    Online Public Lands Act application process (also used when there are requirements under both the Public Lands Act and Water Act). Choose the ‘Application for Surface Disposition’ to apply for new public land dispositions or ‘Amendment for Surface Disposition’ to apply to or amend existing public land dispositions.


  2. Water Act Forms

Questions may be directed to:

Energy resource activities regulated by the AER

Existing regulatory requirements for activities that may impact a wetland continue to apply under the Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and Public Lands Act as regulated by AEP and the AER.

Effective January 2, 2018, the AER has implemented a new authorizations process to implement the Alberta Wetland Policy. For guidance on AER regulated projects, please see AER Bulletin 2017-19 for more information.

AER application processes and forms

  1. Public Lands Act
  2. Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act
  3. Water Act

Questions related to Alberta Wetland Policy implementation for AER regulated energy resource activities within a wetland can be submitted to:

Wetland Professional Practice Standard

As of May 1, 2017, AEP requires authenticating professional signoff on regulatory documents submitted under the Alberta Wetland Policy.

AEP and ten Professional Regulatory Organizations (PRO-10) collaboratively developed and agreed upon a common practice standard that defines the responsibilities and requirements for authenticating professionals in the province. Requirements to become an authenticating professional are outlined in:

All individuals seeking to be an authenticating professional must provide assurance to their professional regulatory organization that they meet the requirements.

Transitive Period Directive

The Transition Period Directive is for individuals who have at least 5 years of professional experience in Alberta but were not regulated for those years by one of the PRO-10:

Questions may be directed to:

Disclaimer

The information on these web pages was created to be consistent with Legislation, Policies, Orders in Council, Ministerial Orders, Treaties/Agreements, Frameworks, Strategies, Plans, Codes of Practice and other approved documents which provide direction on implementing legislation. If there is inconsistency between the regulatory documents and this information, the regulatory documents shall prevail.

Contact

Continue to visit this web page for updates on the Alberta Wetland Policy implementation process.

Questions related to activities that are regulated by AEP can be submitted to:

Questions related to AER regulated energy resource activities within a wetland, can be submitted to:

 

Page Information

Updated: Dec 6, 2018