Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation

Update – July 24, 2017

Most activities that have an impact on any class of wetland in Alberta require either a Water Act Approval, Licence or a Notification under a Water Act Code of Practice.

The exception to this is activities regulated by a Water Act Code of Practice within a wetland lacking a defined bed and bank, as captured in the definition of a "water body" in each Code of Practice. Although a Code of Practice Notification is not required at this time for those activities within a wetland lacking a bed and bank, the department recommends employing Code of Practice standards or Best Management Practices when conducting these activities.

For any activity potentially impacting a wetland that requires a Public Lands Act disposition, see the Application Submission Stage section below.

Updated Documents

The following documents have been replaced by updated versions:

  • Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report Directive (June 2017)
  • Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive (June 2017)

The new versions of these directives and the updates will apply to all new applications subject to the Alberta Wetland Policy submitted after June 30, 2017.

Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Form

The Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Form has been created to support low risk, temporary impacts and minimal permanent impacts agreed upon by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). For eligible activities, the form is to be used in place of the Wetland Assessment and Impact Report and must be submitted with a regulatory application(s). It does not replace the Water Act or Public Lands Act application forms.

The reporting requirements in this form will support a streamlined assessment and internal review process. A list of activities that require the form are listed on the form itself, which can be found in the Wetland Assessment Stage section below. Examples of activities included in this list are:

  • Activities within a wetland (with a defined bed and bank) that are regulated under a Water Act Code of Practice
  • Most above-ground distribution and transmission line structures
  • Road maintenance and widening up to a maximum width of 15 metres from the centerline of the road

Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool (ABWRET-D)

A desktop-only Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool (ABWRET-D) is being developed to support wetland replacement requirements for minimal, permanent impacts on wetlands. The relative wetland value from ABWRET-A is to be used until this tool is released.

Energy Activities within a Wetland

For energy activities within a wetland, Wetland Assessment and Impact Reports or Wetland Assessment and Impact Forms must be submitted to:

Existing regulatory requirements for energy activities within a wetland continue to apply under the Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and Public Lands Act as regulated by the AER. Further direction will be provided in the event of any changes or updates to the existing regulatory processes, in accordance with all wetland directives, guides and tools posted on this website.

Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation

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 the Alberta Wetland Policy and are to submit wetland-related Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and Public Lands Act applications in accordance with all wetland directives, guides and tools posted on this website.

Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design, and Engineering Work in Alberta

Since May 1, 2017, Alberta Environment and Parks requires signoff of an authenticating professional on regulatory documents submitted under the Alberta Wetland Policy. These same individuals will provide professional oversight on wetland replacement projects. The mobilization of this highly qualified workforce will help provide assurance to Albertans that wetlands in the province are being managed to a high standard of professional excellence.

Alberta Environment and Parks and ten Professional Regulatory Organizations in Alberta have collaboratively developed and agreed upon a common set of standards that define the responsibilities and requirements for authenticating professionals in the province. These requirements are set forth in "Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design, and Engineering Work in Alberta". An accompanying document, "Transition Period Directive for Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta", enables a smooth transition period for individuals to meet the requirements of the new standards.

Questions may be directed to:

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, wetland replacement options and requirements are outlined.

Key considerations for wetland policy implementation are as follows:

  • Clear adherence to the Mitigation Hierarchy

    Regulatory applicants will be expected to demonstrate appropriate consideration for avoidance and, where avoidance is not feasible, 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 requirements will need to be fulfilled.

    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.

Overview of the Wetland Application Process

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

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 of this stage is to perform a preliminary desktop review of ownership, identify potential 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 following authorizations may be required when a proposed activity may have impacts on a wetland(s):

  • A Public Lands Disposition is required for activities that may impact a wetland that is either located on Public Land or is deemed a permanent and naturally occurring water body under Section 3 of the Public Lands Act
  • A Water Act Authorization (Approval, Licence, or Notice) is required for most activities that may impact any class of wetland in the province
  • An Authorization under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act is also required for activities regulated by this Act

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 following documents support the planning of your activity around wetlands, including the Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive. In addition, you can request a pre-application meeting with the Waters Regional Office/Public Lands Regional Approval District.

  1. Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive- Jun 1, 2017 (13 pages, <1 MB)
  2. Wetland Application Checklist- Sep 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  3. Wetland Regulatory Requirements Guide- Jun 1, 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  4. Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive- Jun 1, 2015 (60 pages, 4.9 MB)
  5. Guide for Assessing Permanence of Wetland Basins
  6. Alberta Merged Wetland Inventory (AMWI)
  7. Relative Wetland Value Map

2. Wetland Assessment Stage

A wetland assessment involves the completion of four core components:

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

Wetland professionals must authenticate the Wetland Assessment and Impact Report or Form as part of the regulatory submission. The following documents and tools support the wetland assessment stage of the regulatory process to evaluate impacts on a wetland.

  1. Wetland Application Checklist- Sep 2015 (7 pages, <1 MB)
  2. Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report Directive- Jun 1, 2017 (10 pages, <1 MB)
  3. Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Form- Jun 12, 2017 (5 pages, 2.1 MB)
  4. Alberta Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive - Jun 1, 2015 (60 pages, 4.9 MB)
  5. Alberta Wetland Classification System (AWCS)- Jun 1, 2015 (66 pages, <1 MB)
  6. Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool – Actual (ABWRET-A):
  7. Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive- Jun 1, 2017 (13 pages, <1 MB)

A Wetland Assessment and Impact Report or Form (and ABWRET-A results if required) are submitted as part of the application submission stage.

3. Application Submission Stage

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) System.

At present, only the following Public Lands Act dispositions are submitted partially as a paper application with all the required documentation, and should be submitted by email instead of through the EDS:

  • Recreational Leases (REC)
  • Surface Material Exploration (SME)
  • Surface Material Licence (SMC)

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

Otherwise, if the activity only triggers a Water Act authorization, then applications and notifications are submitted directly to the Regulatory Approvals Centre (RAC).

The following documents and links support the application submission stage.

  • Alberta Environment and Parks application processes and forms
    1. Electronic Disposition System

      Online 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)

  • Alberta Energy Regulatory application processes and forms
    1. Public Lands Act

      Public Land Disposition 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

Replacement Program

The following documents support the deveIopment of the Province’s replacement program. In the future, authenticating professionals will have the ability to execute a replacement project according to the requirements of the Alberta Wetland Restoration Directive and the Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta.

Fact Sheets

The following fact sheets provide information on the impact of Alberta Wetland Policy implementation on various industries or activities:

These fact sheets do not replace detailed information in the wetland directives, guides and tools posted on this website but provide a short summary only.

Documents Available Fall 2017

The following documents will be available Fall 2017:

  • Alberta Wetland Construction Directive
  • Alberta Wetland Construction Guide

Disclaimer

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.

Contact

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

 

Page Information

Updated: Jul 24, 2017