Waterpower Exemption from Permits To Take Water

ERO number
019-0545
Notice type
Act
Act
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal
Proposal posted
Comment period
October 28, 2019 - November 27, 2019 (30 days) Open
Last updated

This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on:
November 27, 2019

Proposal summary

There is duplication and overlap of approvals between the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for waterpower facilities. We are reducing this regulatory burden and streamlining processes by moving towards a one-window approvals system for the industry through the latter ministry.

Proposal details

This proposal notice is part of the proposal for the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act.

Proposed exemption for waterpower facilities

Ontario is reducing regulatory burden and streamlining processes by moving towards a one-window approvals system for waterpower facilities through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. We are proposing to amend the Ontario Water Resources Act to remove the need for waterpower facilities to obtain a permit to take water.

The proposed changes would remove the current duplication and overlap between the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for the industry, also providing some cost savings for facilities while maintaining environmental protections.

Waterpower facilities will continue to be regulated under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA), which is administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the Class Environmental Assessment process.

Permits to take water are currently used by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to manage potential impacts related to stream flows and water levels that affect the natural functions of downstream ecosystems and water users. This overlaps with the issues currently addressed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry through approvals and plans under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.

Permits are also used to administer monitoring and reporting requirements for facilities with potential water quality impacts, including methyl mercury impacts. To ensure that mercury-related monitoring, reporting and notification provisions are maintained, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing complementary amendments to the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act to give the Minister regulation-making authority to address the assessment and management of methyl mercury impacts from waterpower facilities. Please see "Amendments to the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act." for more details on proposed amendments to the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.

The exemption from permits to take water would take effect immediately if the proposed legislative changes are passed.

All existing permits for waterpower facilities would remain in force until they are revoked by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks or when they expire.

Adding a regulation-making authority

As part of the proposed amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA), the ministry is proposing to add a new regulation-making authority that would give the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks the authority to specify a date by regulation when a permit or a class of permits (e.g., waterpower) are deemed to be revoked. This authority can be exercised where a water taking or a class of water takings is exempted from the requirement to obtain a permit to take water.

This would enable the ministry to revoke existing waterpower permits in a timely and consistent manner that is aligned with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s proposal to implement necessary changes under the LRIA to address methyl mercury impacts from waterpower facilities.

Minister’s regulation revoking Permits to Take Water

Under this new regulation-making authority, if the legislative amendments to the OWRA are passed, the ministry is proposing to create a new regulation that would revoke all existing permits held by waterpower facilities on April 1, 2020. This timing would allow for the seamless transition of oversight of methyl mercury impacts of waterpower facilities between ministries. It would provide time for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to create a new regulation under the LRIA that would maintain requirements on waterpower facilities to address methyl mercury impacts that are currently administered through permits to take water.

Description of legislation

We are proposing to amend subsection 34(2) of the OWRA by adding a new exemption from the requirement to obtain a permit for water takings that take more than 50,000 litres of water on any day. The proposed exemption would relate to a water taking if the purpose of the taking is for constructing, operating, altering, improving or repairing a dam within the meaning of the LRIA and the dam is associated with the production of electricity.

We are also proposing to add a new section 76.1 to the OWRA to provide the Minister with regulation making authority to deem a permit or all permits in a specified class that are exempt from subsection 34(1) of the act to be revoked on a specified date.

Other information

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry currently each have statutory responsibilities for regulating waterpower facilities in Ontario that reflect their respective mandates.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry administers the LRIA which governs the design, construction, operation, maintenance and safety of dams in Ontario, including dams for the purpose of producing electricity.

Sections 14 and 16 of the act require approvals for the:

  • location of a dam
  • plans and specifications of a dam
  • alterations and repairs of dams

Subsection 23.1 of the act provides the authority for the ministry to require a dam owner to prepare a plan for the management of water flows and levels on river systems with waterpower facilities (e.g., water management plans or an individual operating plan).

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks administers the OWRA and the permit to take water program under the act.

A permit is required for surface water or groundwater withdrawals or diversions that exceed 50,000 litres on any day.

For waterpower projects, the following activities all require a permit in order to assess and manage the water quantity and some water quality aspects of the construction and operation of a facility:

  • removal of water from behind a dam
  • creation of or increases in reservoir storage
  • conveyance of water through a turbine

Waterpower dams that were built before 1961 are exempt from requiring a permit unless they have since been modified.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks - Water Policy Section
Address

40 St. Clair Avenue West
10th floor
Toronto, ON
M4V 1M2
Canada

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Contact

Naomi Herold

Phone number
Email address
Office
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks - Environmental Policy Branch
Address

40 St Clair Avenue West
Floor 10
Toronto, ON
M4V1M2
Canada

Office phone number

Connect with us

Contact

Naomi Herold

Phone number
Email address
Office
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks - Environmental Policy Branch
Address

40 St Clair Avenue West
Floor 10
Toronto, ON
M4V1M2
Canada

Office phone number

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