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
Decision Updated
Decision posted
Comment period
October 28, 2019 - November 27, 2019 (30 days) Closed
Last updated

Update Announcement

This decision notice has been updated to include the decision on the regulation that was proposed alongside the amendment to the Act. No other changes have been made to the decision on the act published on December 19, 2019.

March 31, 2020

This consultation was open from:
October 28, 2019
to November 27, 2019

Decision summary

To further reduce regulatory burden for the waterpower sector while maintaining environmental protection, we have removed existing Permits to Take Water for waterpower facilities. This action follows amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act in December 2019 that removed the need for these facilities to have a Permit to Take Water.

Decision details

Minister’s regulation to revoke existing Permits to Take Water held by waterpower facilities

We are taking the next step to ensure safe, secure, and reliable sources of water for all Ontarians. To reduce duplication and streamline processes for the waterpower sector, we have removed existing Permits to Take Water for waterpower facilities. To do this, we created a Minister’s regulation under the Ontario Water Resources Act, while maintaining environmental protections under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act and the Class Environmental Assessment process.

This action follows amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act that were passed in December 2019 as part of Bill 132, Better for People, Smarter for Business Act. The amendments exempt waterpower facilities from requiring a permit to take water. Despite this exemption, all existing permits for waterpower facilities remained in effect until being revoked by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

To maintain environmental protections, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry also created a new Minister’s regulation under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act to ensure continued oversight reporting of methyl mercury impacts of waterpower facilities. Mercury-related requirements that were previously administered through permits to take water will continue to be addressed through the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, including:

  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Notification to local communities of fish consumption advisories

2019 Ontario Water Resources Act amendments

On October 28, 2019, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks posted proposed amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act for a 30-day comment period.

The ministry decided to proceed with the amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act consistent with the proposal as described.

The Ontario Water Resources Act was amended as follows:

  • Taking water for the purpose of constructing or operating a dam, associated with electricity production, is exempt from the need to obtain a permit to take water.
  • Giving the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks regulation-making authority to specify a date 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.

These legislative amendments received Royal Assent on December 10, 2019 and took effect immediately.

Comments received

Through the registry

24

By email

347

By mail

1
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

This notice was posted for public consultation from October 28, 2019 to November 27, 2019.

In total, 372 comments were received.

What we heard

Minister’s regulation revoking permits to take water

No comments were received specific to the proposed Minister’s regulation to revoke a permit, or class of permits, for waterpower facilities.

Proposed exemption for waterpower facilities

We received comments from the waterpower industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, municipalities and individuals.

Supportive comments agreed with the move to a “one-window” approach for obtaining approvals for waterpower facilities and for the cost-savings and administrative burden reduction that owners of waterpower facilities will receive from the exemption.

  • Unsupportive comments raised the following considerations: Questioning whether the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act are adequate to protect the environment and manage flows/levels and water quality issues (including methyl mercury) related to construction and operation of waterpower facilities.
  • Perception that the waterpower industry will take advantage of this exception at the expense of the environment. Comments raised the need to ensure the industry is preventing and held responsible for any pollution and damage to the environment.
  • Assurances that the health and resilience of Ontario’s freshwater lakes and rivers are maintained through sustainable use and science/based monitoring and reporting.
  • Potential negative effect on groundwater during construction of waterpower facilities.
  • Proposed wording that would have only “operating” dams built before 1961 be exempt from requiring a permit, unless they have since been modified. This would address a perceived lack of oversight of old and ‘orphaned’ dams.

Response

We have considered all comments received during the Environmental Registry posting period in the final decision. We have decided to proceed with the exemption of waterpower facilities, consistent with the proposal, including finalizing a regulation that immediately revokes water-taking permits for waterpower facilities.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

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

Sign up for notifications

We will send you email notifications with any updates related to this consultation. You can change your notification preferences anytime by visiting settings in your profile page.

Follow this notice

Original proposal

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
Proposal posted

Comment period

October 28, 2019 - November 27, 2019 (30 days)

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

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

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

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

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from October 28, 2019
to November 27, 2019

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