1. Why do Conservation Authorities administer development regulations?
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) administers Ontario Regulation 174/06, [Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alteration to Shorelines and Watercourses Regulation] for the following reasons:
- Minimize the risk to loss of life and property damage as a result of flooding.
- Direct development away from natural hazard prone land (i.e. flood plains, unstable slopes and soils).
- Determine whether or not in the opinion of the Authority, the development proposal will affect the control of flooding, erosion, pollution, or the conservation of land.
2. Why is this important?
Damage due to flooding is not covered by homeowner insurance and often results in significant public spending for assistance.
Indiscriminate development potentially leads to: higher flood levels and velocities for neighbours both up and downstream, increases erosion and pollution to receiving streams due to hardening and/or construction practices adjacent to watercourses, impacts groundwater recharge areas through the filling or destruction of wetlands, reduces storage during floods, decreases base flow in streams in summer and removes or destroys habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species.
3. Is the “development, interference with a wetland and alteration to a watercourse or shoreline” regulation a new regulation?
R.S.O., 1990, c. 25 was amended in 1997 as a result of the Ontario Government’s Red Tape Reduction Initiative. Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act made at this time required that all of the existing Regulations administered by the 36 Conservation Authorities across Ontario be amended. The changes were intended to make the Regulations consistent across the province as well as ensure that they were complementary to Provincial Policies for “natural hazards”.
The “new” regulation (Ontario Regulation 174/06) is called a “Development, Interference with Wetlands, Alteration to Shorelines and Watercourses” Regulation. It replaces the “Fill, Construction and Alteration to Waterways” Regulation which, for RVCA came into effect in 1976.
4. What activities are regulated?
The new regulation applies to these activities:
- the construction, reconstruction, erection or placing of a building or structure of any kind,
- any change to a building or structure that would have the effect of altering the use or potential use of the building or structure, increasing the size of the building or structure or increasing the number of dwelling units in the building or structure,
- site grading,
- the temporary or permanent placing, dumping or removal of any material originating on the site or elsewhere,
- straightening, changing, diverting or interfering in any way with the existing channel of a river, creek, stream or watercourse (all watercourses in the watershed),
- changing or interfering with a wetland in any way.
5. What is considered to be development?
Development is defined as the construction, reconstruction, erection of a building or structure; the change to a building or structure which has the effect of altering its use or size; site grading, placing, dumping or removing fill for any purpose.
6. What is a watercourse?
A watercourse is defined as an identifiable depression in the ground in which a flow of water regularly or continuously occurs. Watercourses that meet the above definition may be regulated, regardless of upstream drainage area. Any watercourse that meets the above definition can fall under the regulation.
7. What is a wetland?
A wetland is defined in Section 28 (25) of the Conservation Authorities Act, as:
- seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water, or has a water table close to or at its surface;
- directly contributes to the hydrological function of a watershed through connection with a surface watercourse;
- has hydric soils, the formation of which has been caused by the presence of abundant water; and,
- has vegetation dominated by hydrophytic plants or water tolerant plants, the dominance of which has been favoured by the presence of abundant water, but does not include periodically soaked or wet land that is used for agricultural purposes and no longer exhibits a wetland characteristic referred to in clause c) or d).
A Provincially Significant Wetland is a Wetland which has been identified by the Province of Ontario (MNR) through the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System as having sufficient social, biological and hydrologic values to scare as Provincially Significant.
8. Why are wetlands important?
Just a few of the reasons include:
- Wetlands help prevent flooding by temporarily storing water, allowing it to soak into the ground or evaporate.
- Wetlands are reservoirs for rainwater and runoff that recharges water tables and aquifers.
- Wetlands help to protect water quality by acting as "natural filters." They remove toxins, sediment and other impurities.
- Wetlands provide habitat for a wide variety of birds, amphibians, plants and animals. Some wetland inhabitants are rare or uncommon species.
9. What is a floodplain?
A floodplain is the area adjacent to a watercourse where flooding naturally occurs. In the Rideau Watershed the “regulated or regional storm” floodplain is defined by the 1:100 year flood - the minimum standard used in the Province. The 1:100 year flood is the combination of rainfall and snowmelt which will generate, at a specified point on a watercourse, a flow rate which has a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any one year period (the 1:100 year flood).
10. What is a 1:100 year flood?
A 1:100 year flood is the rainfall or snowmelt, or a combination of rainfall and snowmelt producing at any location in a river, creek, stream or watercourse, a peak flow that has a probability of occurrence of one percent during any given year.
11. What types of lands are affected by the development regulation within the Rideau Valley?
- Flood plains, ravines, valleys, and steep slopes
- Wetland areas evaluated by MNR meeting the definition in the wetlands definition above; including swamps, marshes, bogs and fens
- All lakeshores, rivers, creeks, streams, drains and watercourses within the Rideau Valley Watershed
12. What happens if my property is in a regulated area?
If your property is located in a regulated area, you may need written permission from the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority to undertake any “development” in the floodplain or on hazard land, or to make any “alteration” to a watercourse or “interfere” with a wetland or lands adjacent thereto.
Under the regulation, development proposals within the regulated area must be reviewed and approved by the RVCA. A letter of permission must be issued by the Authority. The review process ensures that the development will not create a risk to public safety from flooding or erosion hazards, that the natural features within the watershed are protected through the conservation of land provision and that pollution will not occur related to the development.
If you are planning any shoreline, near shore work, filling or dredging in or adjacent to a watercourse or within or near a wetland (i.e.: boathouses, docks, access points, erosion protection) your project is likely subject to the Regulation and you must contact our office for information prior to starting any work.
Conservation Authority approval is also required prior to receiving a municipal building permit (the “other applicable law” provisions of the Ontario Building Code).
13. How do you find out and receive information on whether or not you need approval for your project?
Most of the lands regulated by the Conservation Authority have been mapped in detail. The Regulation Limit mapping, which shows the Authority's Regulated Areas, is available at our office and from staff in our LandOwner Resource Centre. You can request a General Propery Inquiry or you can also review mapping online through the Map A Property tool. Hazards may also be mapped in municipal Official Plans and in zoning by-laws; information on the map schedules to these documents usually comes from the Conservation Authority.
Check before you commence work.
If you live close to a stream, river, watercourse of any kind, a wetland or are on the waterfront of the Rideau River, its tributaries or the Ottawa River, and you wish to determine if your property is affected by Ontario Regulation 174/06 or other RVCA programs please contact the Conservation Authority. Be prepared with a legal description of your property (e.g. municipal address, lot and concession lines, plan or block number) and a location map. If you want written confirmation and a detailed review of how your property is affected by our regulation, we can also provide a Property File Search (fee applies).
14. How do I apply for permission?
- Calling the RVCA while you are in the early stages of planning your project may save you time and keep your schedule on track. Your first point of contact to determine if you require Conservation Authority approval is through our Resource Specialists at 613-692-3571 || 1-800-267-3504 (extension 1132 or 1193) who can provide you with the preliminary information you will require to submit an application.
- Download a Permit Application Form – print and fill out this form. You may also contact the a Resource Specialist for paper copy or visit our office to pick up a copy.
- Refer to the Application Fee Schedule to determine the category of works and the application type. Please forward your permit application form and other required information including plans drawn to scale, a survey, elevation information, etc. (see Minimum Application Requirements). The application fee is paid at the time of filing the application with the RVCA.
Click here for a full list of forms, fees and resources.
15. Can I receive something in writing regarding site constraints so that my future development plans can take this into account?
To assist owners and potential buyers, the RVCA provides a Property File Search. A nominal fee applies. Current owners, potential buyers, or lawyers and real estate agents acting on behalf of their clients may request information about a particular property. The RVCA will provide a letter outlining the Authority’s regulatory jurisdiction over the property and if there are any known violations on the property.
16. Who decides if a letter of permission/approval (permit) is to be granted?
Applications which meet the Conservation Authority’s “Development Policies” can be approved at a staff level. The local policy document has been approved by the Conservation Authority’s Board of Directors for staff approvals. The Board of Directors is the elected body responsible for the day to day running of the Conservation Authority. Authority members are representatives appointed by municipalities throughout the watershed (they may be municipal councilors or citizens appointed by Council).
17. What if my application does not meet the policies?
Staff may only approve applications which meet the RVCA Development Policies. The majority of applicants obtain approval for what they applied for or a negotiated variation thereon.
Where applications do not meet the approved policy an applicant will be provided with reasons in writing as to why a staff approval is not possible. If no middle ground can be found within the framework of the approved policies then a hearing of the application can be scheduled with the Executive Committee of the RVCA. Written notice of the hearing date and location will be provided.
Testimony before the Executive Committee is given under oath or affirmation, pursuant to Ontario’s Statutory Powers Procedure Act. Both Authority staff and the applicant present evidence to the Committee. Every effort is made to conduct the hearing in as informal but orderly manner as possible so that all of the facts presented are considered and a fair decision can be made. Applicants are invited to bring any technical or legal counsel with them to support their application. The Committee has no prior knowledge of the particulars of an application prior to commencement of the hearing. Their decision is based on the facts presented to them at the hearing.
Generally, the Executive Committee will only grant permission if it is satisfied that the proposed work will have no undesirable effects on the control of flooding, pollution or the conservation of land. Where permission cannot be granted written reasons are provided.
18. Are applicants denied permission by the Executvie Commitee and if so what recourse do I have?
Where an applicant has been refused permission they may, within 30 days of the receipt of the reasons, appeal the decision to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry for Ontario. The Minister typically appoints the Mining and Lands Commissioner for Ontario for Ontario to hear the appeal. On the Minister’s behalf the Commissioner may hold a new hearing, dismiss the appeal or grant the requested permission. The decision of the Minister is final.
19. What if I proceed without the necessary permission (commonly referred to as build first and ask for forgiveness later)?
The Authority monitors development activities throughout the watershed. Monitoring techniques include aerial, land, and water based surveys. Complaints are also received from the community and from other concerned parties.
Penalties which may be imposed for contraventions of the Regulation are outlined in Section 28 (16) and (17) of the Conservation Authorities Act, 1990 as amended and includes provision for a fine of up to $10,000.00 per offence, imprisonment of not more than 3 months, and Court Orders to remove the offending development and to rehabilitate the watercourse or wetland.
20. Are other efforts being made to reduce the risk of development within floodplains, nearshore areas and hazard lands?
Yes. The Authority participates actively in the municipal planning process and makes recommendations to local decision makers respecting conformity to provincial policies and the effects of their decisions respecting land use, development and drainage.
The authority participates directly in the provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning System to provide advanced local warning of flood conditions to existing floodplain residents and to municipal officials responsible for coordinating flood contingency plans.
The Conservation Authority also operates an information and education program for the benefit of property owners, prospective purchasers and individual and firms engaged in the land development business and realtors.
21. Does the Conservation Authority issue approval for septic systems?
In April of 1998 the approval authority for new and replacement septic systems on single lots involving less than 10,000 L per day of sewage flow was transferred from the Province to local municipalities. As such septic systems require approval under Part 8 of the Ontario Building Code and so are subject to the “other applicable law” provisions of the Building Code Act. Some municipalities contract the Conservation Authority to perform this service on their behalf in which case a formal agreement (or MOU) is entered into.
Regardless of who approves the septic system, from a hazard management perspective the Conservation Authority’s primary concern is the setback from water and the location relative to the hazard (floodplain, slope or unstable soil). The volume of fill is an associated concern. Typically, fill for a septic system is approved based on maximizing setbacks from water and minimal fill placement within the development area.
In areas affected by the Authority’s development regulations, permission must be obtained from the Conservation Authority in addition and prior to issuance of the municipal building permit.
Inside the City of Ottawa, the Conservation Authorities (South Nation, Mississippi, and Rideau Valley) administer the Septic Approval Program under the Ottawa Septic System Office (located at the Rideau Valley office in Manotick) on behalf of the City of Ottawa for all private sewage systems.
The Mississippi Valley Conservaiton Authority (MVCA) and the RVCA have a similar arrangement to supply septic review and approval services to the Tay Valley Township through the Mississippi Rideau Septic System Office with a Septic Inspector located out of the MVCA’s office.
In cases where a permit for the construction or replacement of a septic system is required under the Ontario Building Code and the Conservation Authority’s Development Regulations, every effort is made to provide the applicant with the additional information and to process the applications concurrently.
22. How does the Conservation Authority review applicatons for erosion protection on residential properties under the Alteration to Watercourse portion of the regulation?
All applications are reviewed against the approved Development Policies; Section 3.0 applies to watercourse interference or alteration. Staff will undertake a site visit of the property to determine the existing site conditions and the extent of the proposed works. The intent of the policies and any subsequent approval is to promote the naturalizing of the shoreline and near shore areas of our rivers and creeks by limiting the hardening and sterilizing of shoreline areas. The planting of vegetated riparian buffers of dense, deep rooted, woody vegetation is a preferred approach in conjunction with any watercourse alteration project (website reference). Financial grants may be available for replanting shoreline areas.