UPDATE-Changes to Wetland Policies

Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority is working towards regulating and protecting wetlands in the watershed that meet various criteria. In 2006, Conservation Authority regulations were changed to include the regulation of development and interference within all wetlands within a CA’s jurisdiction. To date, MVCA has applied the regulations to provincially significant wetlands (PSW) only. This is potentially being extended to other wetlands that are not provincially significant.

The following provides the latest news and information you need to know.

On December 7, 2016, the MVCA Board of Directors reviewed a draft policy for regulating all wetlands. The development of the policies are part of a Board of Directors approved implementation strategy to apply the regulations as intended to non-provincially significant wetlands. The implementation also required that the proposed polices related to non-provincially significant wetlands be circulated to planning staff of member municipalities and that the policies be posted on the MVCA website for public review and comment. Read the draft policy here.

The next Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 1pm at MVCA’s office in Carleton Place.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry recently posted Wetland Conservation in Ontario: A Discussion Paper, which the Board of Directors has had an opportunity to review. Read Conservation Ontario’s response here.

Be sure to also check out the interactive map to see what areas are impacted.

For further details or to submit a comment, contact Shannon Gutoskie, Community Relations Coordinator, at 613-253-0006 ext 225.

 


 

Changes to Wetlands Policy

Introduction to Wetlands
Background
Frequently Asked Questions
Next Steps
References
Draft Screening Maps
Media

Introduction to Wetlands

Importance of Wetlands

Improves water quality by filtering out suspended solids, absorbing pollutants and removing excess nutrients
Reduces flood damage
Reduces erosion
Groundwater recharge/discharge
Habitat for fish and wildlife
Provides resilience to climate change
Recreation and tourism
Sustainable wetland products
Maintains base flows during dry conditions

What is a wetland?
Wetland means land that…
(a) is seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water or has a water table close to or at its surface;
(b) directly contributes to the hydrological function of a watershed through connection with a surface watercourse;
(c) has hydric soils, the formation of which has been caused by the presence of abundant water; and
(d) 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.
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Background

History:

In 2006, regulations allowing the Conservation Authority to regulate wetlands were approved by the province. Each Conservation Authority’s regulation is based on provincial guidelines.
MVCA regulations were applied to wetlands in the watershed that were only provincially significant (PSWs) due to cost, mapping issues and limited staff resources.
An annual report by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (2006-2007), states:
“It was expected that CAs would regulate and protect all wetlands, not just those that are identified as provincially significant. It appears that other CAs are not applying the regulation to many wetlands, either because of a lack of resources or a lack of political will. For example, the Eastern Ontario CAs have “made a policy decision that only wetlands designated as provincially significant and appearing on approved Official Plan schedules are subject to the regulation.” This was reiterated in 2009-2010.
In 2012, MVCA staff made a presentation to the Board of Directors to highlight the importance of wetlands for flood attenuation, filtration and storage. A work plan was developed to determine what wetlands are important within the watershed.
After highlighting to the Board in 2013 which wetlands were under pressure and the most important, MVCA staff was directed to  engage and consult with local ecologists, Algonquin College, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, other Conservation Authorities and municipal staff to identify important wetlands. After exploring several sets of criteria to assess importance, a minimum size of 0.5 ha and surface connectivity were determined to be the most important criteria. These criteria have been used to create the draft mapping.

The Regulation:

Under Section 2 (1) of Ontario Regulation 153/06, “Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority: Regulation of Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses, development is prohibited within:
(c) wetlands; or
(d) other areas where development could interfere with the hydrologic function of a wetland, including areas within 120 metres of all provincially significant wetlands and areas within 30 metres of other wetlands. O. Reg. 153/06.”
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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is it important to protect wetlands?
A. Wetlands help to: attenuate flooding, reduce erosion, improve water quality, recharge groundwater tables, maintain streamflow during dry periods, reduce the need for costly storm water infrastructure, maintain fish and wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities such as birding or hunting. Wetlands also help to maintain the resilience of our natural streams to reduce impacts from more frequent and intense weather events by absorbing heat and buffering against increased flooding, storm water and drought.
This regulation is a key tool in allowing Conservation Authorities to maintain these important natural functions which wetlands provide. This regulation prevents or restricts development in areas where 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.
According to a Ducks Unlimited Canada final report (Southern Ontario Wetland Conversion Analysis-2010), Ontario has lost 1.4 million ha or 72% of the pre-settlement (c. 1800) wetlands. The decline in wetlands since settlement has been most drastic in south western Ontario, parts of eastern Ontario, and Niagara and the Toronto area, where over 85% of the original wetlands have been converted to other uses. Within the eastern half of the Mississippi Valley watershed it is estimated that 65% of the original wetlands have been lost.
In the third edition of “How Much Habitat is Enough?”, Environment Canada’s wetland habitat guidelines state, “Ensure no net loss of wetland area, and focus on maintain and restoring wetland functions at a watershed and subwatershed scale based on historic reference conditions. At a minimum, the greater of 10% of each major watershed should be protected and restored.”
To include current non-Provincially Significant Wetlands’s (PSW’s), MVCA is proposing to protect and restore 8% of the watershed, up from the current 4% (PSW’s only).
Feedback obtained from municipalities and the public will be presented to the Board of Directors for consideration in developing updated policies on how the regulation is to be administered.

Q. Under the changes, my property has been identified as a regulated wetland. What does that mean for me?
A. Nothing, unless you plan to alter the wetland. In that case, compensation measures may be required to offset the impacts to wetland when it’s appropriate. MVCA staff will conduct a field visit; assess if the wetland in fact meets the criteria for protection under the regulation; provide guidance on how to proceed and work with the landowner to arrive at a solution. The maps are used as a guide and a screening tool. Wetlands will be more thoroughly assessed by MVCA staff when a request to alter the wetland is received.

Q. Since other Conservation Authorities have already implemented the changes, what, if anything, are you doing differently?
A. MVCA is taking a flexible, rather than blanket approach, to regulating non-PSW’s. Staff is carefully considering all the feedback received from the public and the Board is looking to the province’s response on the MNRF’s discussion paper  on conserving Ontario’s wetlands before arriving at a decision.

Q. What if I want to alter a wetland?
A. First, contact MVCA to discuss your proposal. MVCA will assess opportunities to mitigate impacts to the function of the wetland and recommend best management practices. For major work, compensation measures may be required to offset the impacts. MVCA will work with the landowner to arrive at a solution.

Q. What sort of activities requires approval within the wetlands and adjacent lands?
A. You can continue to enjoy the activities you currently participate in. Unauthorized construction or alteration of wetlands can result in increased upstream or downstream flooding, reduced water quality, destruction of fish and wildlife habitat or other environmental problems. Therefore, the proposed policies will require approval for certain activities within wetlands and adjacent lands. These activities include:
• construction, reconstruction or placing a building or structure of any kind
• any change to a building or structure that changes its use
• grading of the site
• temporary or permanent placing, dumping or removal of material
• use of heavy machinery in and around the wetland

The following is a list of recommended exemptions:

  • Maintenance of public and new infrastructure
  • Conservation and recreation use
  • Lands or areas that have draft planning approval
  • Areas that have completed a Municipal Environmental Assessment
  • Existing agricultural use
  • Crown land

 

Q. What criteria was used to determine what additional wetlands would be regulated?
A. 

  • Size of Wetland – Wetlands smaller than 0.5 ha (1.2 acres) were excluded
  • Hydraulic connectivity (ie. connected to a waterbody/watercourse)

Q. Why are you making these changes now?
A. The province requires us to regulate and protect all wetlands, not just those identified as provincially significant. The MVCA has been phasing in this approach.

Q. When will the public have its say?
A. MVCA held two open houses with respect to the proposed changes in 2015. The Township of Drummond North Elmsley hosted an open house in November 2016. In addition, MVCA staff made presentations to a number of member municipal councils. Email questions or comments to Shannon Gutoskie.

Q. What is the timeline from approval to implementation?
A. The changes will take effect following consultation, review of comments and Board of Director approval.

Q. How many applications have been received for work with Provincially Significant Wetlands?
A. We currently regulate 400 square kilometres of wetlands. We have received approximately 12 applications per year. That number is expected to double.

Have a question or a comment? email Shannon Gutoskie, Community Relations Coordinator.

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Next Steps

  • Continue to respond to inquiries
  • Continue public and municipal engagement
  • Maintain website and update mapping
  • Board of Directors decision: Fall 2017

 

References

Ducks Unlimited Canada: Southern Ontario Wetland Conversion Analysis-March 2010-Final Report

Great Lakes Wetlands Conservation Action Plan-2005-2010 Highlights Report

To better understand the relationship between wetlands and flooding in Ontario, watch “Weathering the Storm” by Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Media 

Fight for wetland protection stalls large Niagara Falls development

Losing small wetlands linked to algal blooms in lakes, research says

Destruction of small wetlands leads to more algal blooms, Ontario study finds

Don’t drain the swamp: report says wetlands help avert flood damage

Carleton Place to facilitate wetlands regulation discussions

MVCA presents benefits on potential new wetland designations to Carleton Place

Discussion

Read public comments here

 


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