The Ministry of Natural Resources has Proposed Amendments to Conservation Authority Regulations made and approved under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act. The amendments don’t seem objectionable. They are intended to streamline the permitting process for grading and filling flood plains, by extending the maximum period of a permit from 24 months to 60 months and allowing the CA’s to delegate permit approvals from their board to senior staff.
The Conservation Authorities (CAs) are corporate bodies created through the Conservation Authorities Act at the request of two or more municipalities. Their purpose is to establish and undertake programs to further conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources other than gas, oil and minerals. There are currently 36 CAs in Ontario, each with its own geographic jurisdiction.
In their role as a regulatory authority, they may make regulations to prohibit, restrict regulate or give required permissions for certain activities in and adjacent to watercourses, wetlands, and shorelines. This power is set out in section 28(1) of the Act:
28. (1) Subject to the approval of the Minister, an authority may make regulations applicable in the area under its jurisdiction…
(b) prohibiting, regulating or requiring the permission of the authority for straightening, changing, diverting or interfering in any way with the existing channel of a river, creek, stream or watercourse, or for changing or interfering in any way with a wetland;
(c) prohibiting, regulating or requiring the permission of the authority for development if, in the opinion of the authority, the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches or pollution or the conservation of land may be affected by the development;
These powers are exercised in accordance with Ontario Regulation 97/04, Content Of Conservation Authority Regulations Under Subsection 28 (1) Of The Act: Development, Interference With Wetlands And Alterations To Shorelines And Watercourses.
In the document Policies and Procedures for Conservation Authority Plan Review and Permitting Activities, prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources with input from the public and an interministerial working group, provides a helpful flow chart to explain the process that applicants, usually a landowner (or her agent) or an infrastructure manager and owner such as a municipality, must follow.
Under the Regulations, a permit cannot be extended. If works covered by the application are not completed within the legislated timeframe, the applicant must reapply and, according to the Policies and Procedures document, delays in approval may result. The Policies and Procedures document, also notes that the policies in place at the time of re-application will apply (see page 21).
By extending the length that a permit can remain in effect to five years, major infrastructure projects that require multiple levels of approval or environmental assessment, will be allowed more time to get through the processes before they must reapply. Under the current Regulation, the maximum period for a permit may be 60 months where it is granted for a project that, in the opinion of the authority, either cannot be reasonably completed within 24 months or requires permits or approvals that cannot reasonably be obtained within 24 months (see s. 7.1).
Comments on the proposed amendments must be submitted by February 2, 2012.
By Meredith James and Dianne Saxe