Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation

Update – Jul 4, 2016

The Alberta Wetland Policy is in effect province-wide, including Alberta’s Green Area (boreal forest and eastern slopes), on July 4, 2016. Regulatory bodies and regulatory applicants are expected to operate in accordance with all wetland directives, guides and tools posted on this website and currently applied in the White Area.

  • Clear articulation of the Wetland Mitigation Hierarchy

    As of July 4, 2016, regulatory applicants operating in the Green Area will be expected to demonstrate appropriate consideration for avoidance and minimization of wetland impacts, in accordance with the Wetland Mitigation Directive.

  • Wetland replacement requirements

    Where an authorized activity results in the permanent loss of wetland area from the landscape, wetland replacement obligations are enacted.

    Where an authorized activity does not result in the permanent loss of wetland area (through avoidance or minimization of wetland impacts, or due to an explicit requirement/commitment to reclaim all impacted wetland back to wetland), the applicant will not be subject to wetland replacement requirements.

Please continue to monitor this website for further updates on the Alberta Wetland Policy implementation process. Should you require additional information, please contact:

Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation: A Phased Process

Implementation of the Alberta Wetland Policy will occur in a phased manner. As of June 1, 2015 in the White Area and July 4, 2016 in the Green Area, proponents are to submit wetland-related Water Act and Public Lands Act applications in accordance with the Alberta Wetland Policy. This coincides with the beginning of the field season for conducting wetland field assessments.

Overview of the Wetland Application Process

If you are planning an activity or water diversion that may impact a wetland, the information referenced here will guide proponents through the process. Comprehensive information, systems and tools continue to be developed to help with the application process. This page will be updated as new directives, guides and tools are available.

Under the new Alberta Wetland Policy, the application process for an activity that may impact a wetland consists of three stages:

  1. Planning and Legislative Alignment
  2. Wetland Assessment
  3. Application Submission

Applicable to all three stages of the wetland application process are the Wetland Mitigation Hierarchy and the Qualified Wetland Science Practitioner (QWSP) Program.

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

Wetland Mitigation Hierarchy

The Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive provides information to help make avoid and minimize decisions prior to making replace decisions. The Directive specifies documentation needed to demonstrate an applicant’s efforts to avoid wetlands and minimize impacts in support of their application. Where avoidance is not possible, Minimization Plan, Replacement Plan, and permittee replacement project requirements are described in this Directive.

Qualified Wetland Science Practitioner (QWSP) Program

The new Qualified Wetland Science Practitioner (QWSP) program and standards will provide professionals with information to assist applicants in completing all stages of the wetland application process; from desktop planning to replacement plans. A clearly defined accreditation system will provide assurance of quality and the high degree of scientific rigor needed to effectively manage wetlands across the province. Requirements and practice standards continue to be developed. In the meantime, we have set out an interim program.

Questions may be directed to:

Wetland Regulatory 3-Stage Process Diagram (Summary)

Stage 1, 2 and 3 of the Wetland Application Process

1. Planning and Legislative Alignment Stage

The first step is landscape-level scoping using new and existing tools to do a preliminary desktop review of ownership, identify and delineate wetlands, and estimate the relative value of the wetlands.

The next step is to determine if regulatory approval is needed for the activity and if so, under which legislation. The Alberta Wetland Policy's primary legislation:

  • The Water Act gives the province ownership of and the government the responsibility to manage all water
  • Under the Public Lands Act the province owns permanent and naturally occurring water bodies, which includes permanent wetlands

This early pre-application stage also prompts the applicant to identify other federal, provincial, regional and municipal legislation, policy and program considerations that may prompt or trigger processes outside of the primary legislation.

To help you determine if you want to proceed with an application, the Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive (Section 5) provides criteria, as well a preliminary meeting may be held with the regulatory body.

  1. Wetland Application Checklist- Sep 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  2. Wetland Regulatory Requirements Guide- Jun 1, 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  3. Alberta Merged Wetland Inventory (AMWI)
  4. Relative Wetland Value Map
    • Search Data Catalogue for "ABWRET-E"
    • Select "Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool – Estimate of Relative Wetland Value by Section" (not the document ending in "Index")
    • Then chose ADD from the box to view the data
    • Remove the layers checks from "RWVA Units" and "ABWRET-E of RWV by Section Dataset Area" (but not the same named layers ending in "Outline")
    • Zoom in to the appropriate section; Estimated Wetlands and Estimated Values are provided

2. Wetland Assessment Stage

Applicants must follow the Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report Directive whenever an activity is proposed that will impact a wetland. A wetland assessment involves the completion of four core components:

  • Wetland identification and delineation (required whenever a wetland is impacted by an activity)
  • Wetland classification (required whenever a wetland is impacted by an activity)
  • Wetland relative value assessment (ABWRET-A) (required whenever there is permanent loss of wetland or as requested)
  • Species or other surveys (as required or as requested)

The wetland assessment must be performed by a QWSP. The Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive (Section 5 and 6) provides criteria to help you review the assessment results, determines if you want to proceed with an application, and identifies best management practices for minimizing the impact of the planned activity on the wetland.

  1. Wetland Application Checklist- Sep 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  2. Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report Directive - Jun 1, 2015 (16 pages, <1 MB)

A Wetland Assesment and Impact Report and, if required, ABWRET-A results are submitted as part of the application submission stage.

3. Application Submission Stage

This stage provides information to complete a Water Act, or if applicable a joint Public Lands Act, wetland application package. Including:

  • Guidance to determine and report on the potential impact of an activity on a wetland
  • A checklist outlining wetland application submission requirements, including all aspects of the 3-Stage process
  • Evidence of avoidance and minimization (Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive - Section 5 and 6)

If avoidance or minimization is not an option, discussions with the regulatory body may be appropriate to determine if replacement options can be considered. As a last resort and where avoidance and minimization efforts are not feasible or prove ineffective, wetland replacement will be required. The Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive (Section 7) provides wetland replacement requirements. A Wetland Replacement Agent Program is under development; there is a moratorium on new agents until 2016.

  1. Wetland Regulatory Requirements Guide- Jun 1, 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  2. Wetland Application processes and forms
    1. Electronic Disposition System

      On-line Public Lands Act application process (also used when there are Public Lands Act and Water Act requirements; choose either the Application for Surface Disposition or Amendment for Surface Disposition)

    2. Water Act Forms

      Specifically "Water Act Application" (used when there are NO Public Lands Act requirements)

    3. EPEA Approval Process
    4. Drinking Water and Wastewater Facility Approvals and Registrations Process

      Stormwater facilities are included here

    5. Alberta Energy Regulatory Application Processes
      1. Public Lands Act

        Public Land Dispostion Process on left menu bar

      2. Environmental Protection & Enhancement Act

        Forms & Guides on left menu bar

      3. Water Act

        Forms & Guides on left menu bar

  3. Wetland Application Checklist - Sep 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  4. Wetland Offset Program Description - Sep 1, 2015 (3 pages, <1 MB)

Transitional Documents

The following white area Wetland Policy tools and information will be rescinded when applications are required to be submitted under the Alberta Wetland Policy (refer to Wetland Policy Implementation Timeline above). These transitional documents do not apply in the Green Area.

  • Administrative Guide for Approvals to Protect Surface Water Bodies under the Water Act
  • Provincial Wetland Restoration/Compensation Guide and Fact Sheet
  • Wetland Management in the Settled Areas of Alberta – an Interim Policy
  • Wetland Restoration Program, Water Act Approval Administrative Guide

The information on these web pages were 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. The onus is on you to ensure you are in compliance with all applicable regulatory documents.


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Updated: Sep 23, 2016