Alberta Wetland Policy Implementation

Update – July 12, 2018

Included in this update:

  • Transition Period Directive for Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta

For further details, see the Wetland Professional Practice Standard section below.

Notice: As of June 1, 2018, wetland applications are no longer accepted under the Interim Wetland Policy.

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

Wetland Mitigation Hierarchy

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

  1. Alberta Wetland Policy
  2. Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive

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

Where permanent wetland impacts will be incurred, the directive outlines wetland replacement options.

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:

Overview of the Wetland Application Process

Under the Alberta Wetland Policy, avoidance must be considered at all three stages in the regulatory process, as illustrated in the figure below. It is the onus of the applicant to avoid wetland impacts during Stages 1 and 2 of the planned activity, and to justify wetland impacts within the Wetland Assessment and Impact Report or Form where avoidance is not practicable. The regulatory body may require wetland avoidance at Stage 3 (see Wetland Mitigation Directive).

Wetland Regulatory Process Diagram


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 to identify all potential wetlands and to consider how wetland avoidance can be achieved in the planning and design of the proposed activity.

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.

According to Section 3 of the Public Lands Act, the ownership to the bed and shore of all permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water in the province is vested in the Crown in right of Alberta. It is the responsibility of the proponent to first identify the existence of potentially permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water on the landscape before submitting an application to the regulatory body.

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

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

The following documents support the planning of an activity that may impact a wetland:

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

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:

2. Wetland Assessment Stage

A suite of guides and tools has been developed by AEP to support standardized wetland assessment methods by professionals. Any wetland assessment submitted to the regulatory body must be signed by an authenticating professional who either:

  • meets the requirements in the Wetland Professional Practice Standard (Professional Responsibilities in the Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta)
  • has been recognized by the department under the Transition Period Directive for Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta

Wetland Application Checklist

The Wetland Application Checklist should be reviewed before submitting an application to ensure the application is complete and meets the Policy’s requirements.

Wetland Assessment Overview

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.

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) in stage 3 below.

Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Form (WAIF)

The WAIF is used to support low risk activities regulated by AEP and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). For eligible activities, the form is to be used in place of the WAIR and must be 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 Identification and Delineation Directive

This Directive provides guidance on how to identify a wetland, delineate its ecological extent and outlines the submission standards for spatial files. The template is used to create the wetland shapefile.

Alberta Wetland Classification System

The Alberta Wetland Classification System groups wetlands into five 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 (e.g. dominated by trees, shrubs, grass-like plants, aquatic plants) and type (e.g. water permanence, pH, salinity).

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

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

Alberta has calibrated ABWRET-A into broad regions in Alberta; the Parkland-Grassland Natural Regions and the Boreal-Foothills Natural Regions. Proponents must use the appropriate guide and form based on which region the wetland(s) is located in. 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 forms must be completed by visiting the wetland 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 Wetland Assessment and Impact Form (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:

3. Application Submission Stage

Activities Regulated by Alberta Environment and Parks (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 (RAC) and not through EDS.

The following documents and links support the application submission stage.

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 amend existing public land dispositions)
  2. Water Act Forms

Questions may be directed to:

Energy Resource Activities Regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator (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 & 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:

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

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

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Wetland Professional Practice Standard

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 set forth 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

Notice: July 12, 2018

For individuals who have at least five years of professional experience in Alberta but were not regulated for those years by one of the PRO-10 (listed in the Wetland Professional Practice Standard):

Questions may be directed to:

Replacement Program

The following documents support the Province’s replacement program and provide the requirements to develop a replacement wetland under the Alberta Wetland Policy.

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

Please continue to visit this web page for further 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: Jul 17, 2018