This consultation was open from:
December 18, 2019
to January 17, 2020
We are proposing to amend Ontario Regulation 454/96 (Construction). If passed, this amendment would provide an alternative, optional rules in regulation approach to wetland dam owners to repair existing wetland dams.
The Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA) provides the legislative authority to regulate the design, construction, operation, maintenance and safety of dams in Ontario.
The LRIA provides the Lieutenant Governor in Council with the authority to make regulations prescribing circumstances in which approval is required under subsection 14(1) or Section 16 of the LRIA.
Ontario Regulation 454/96 (Construction) outlines the circumstances in which LRIA approval is required. Dam owners are generally required to obtain plans and specifications approval from the Ministry under Section 16 of the LRIA, prior to making alterations, improvements or repairs to an existing dam.
Description of the Proposal
We are proposing to amend Ontario Regulation 454/96 (Construction). If passed, this amendment would provide an alternative, optional rules in regulation approach to wetland dam owners, to repair existing low hazard wetland dams without obtaining approval under Section 16 of the LRIA, if they meet the requirements in the regulation.
The proposed amendments would not affect the requirement for persons to obtain approval under Section 14 of the LRIA prior to the construction of a new wetland dam, or the requirement to obtain approval to decommission a dam.
Over the past six years through a pilot project, we have collected evidence to support the option of an alternative, risk based regulatory model for repairs to wetland related dams. The pilot project enabled alterations, improvements and repairs through a streamlined process, and it demonstrated that these were low risk projects. Therefore, we are proposing a risked based regulatory approach. Alterations, improvements and repairs to low hazard wetland dams are a low risk activity and do not need to be subject to the same requirements as larger, more complex dams that may have more significant public safety, dam safety or environmental interests.
Low hazard classification means that the impact of the dam failure would not exceed: minimal loss to fish and wildlife habitat with a high capability of natural restoration, minimal property loss, no loss of life, and reversible damage to cultural heritage sites, as prior determined through a rigorous dam hazard classification study undertaken by a qualified professional.
The proposed amendment would establish the following requirements:
- the dam must be an existing wetland dam
- the dam must have a low hazard potential classification, as determined by a licenced engineering practitioner
- any alterations, improvements and repairs must not change the hazard potential classification of the dam
If a proposal to alter, improve or repair an existing low hazard wetland dam did not satisfy these requirements, the dam owner would need to apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for approval under Section 16 of the LRIA.
If passed, the proposed amendment could encourage owners of wetland dams to complete a hazard potential classification of their dams, which advances Ontario’s broader interests in dam safety and public safety.
The proposed amendment would reduce regulatory burden to owners of low hazard wetland dams, while supporting the continued management of Ontario’s wetlands, by providing an alternative, optional rules in regulation approach to repairing existing low hazard wetland dams. It would provide dam owners with the opportunity of increased project planning certainty, while maintaining or enhancing provincial interests in public safety, dam safety and environmental considerations. Dam owners could reinvest their cost savings in dam safety and wetland management.
Regulatory impact statement
The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are neutral to positive. Experience in Ontario demonstrates that undertaking work on low hazard wetland dams poses a low risk to the environment, when designed, undertaken and inspected by qualified professionals. If the amendments were passed, owners of wetland dams would be incented to complete hazard potential classifications of their dams, to utilize this alternative regulatory approach. Regulatory cost savings for dam owners and conservation partners can be reinvested into wetland management and conservation.
The anticipated social consequences of the proposal are neutral. Most wetland dams in Ontario are located on private land. Undertaking work on low hazard wetland dams poses a low risk to public safety and nearby property.
The anticipated economic consequences of the proposal are positive. If passed, the proposed amendments would enable an optional, rules in regulation approach for alterations, improvements and repairs to wetland dams classified as low hazard dams. Dam owners who satisfy all of the requirements in the proposed amendment would be relieved from the Ministry’s application process for approval, potentially incenting additional fiscal investment in dams and thereby contributing to the province’s broader interests in advancing dam safety and public safety.
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