Ontario Advances Changes to Conservation Authorities Act for Safer Development

A new regulation under Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act (the “Act”), Ontario Regulation 41/24: Prohibited Activities, Exemptions and Permits, will come into effect on April 1, 2024.

These updates will revoke the existing 36 distinct conservation authority regulations and consolidate them into a single Minister’s regulation governing prohibited activities, exemptions and permits under the Act. The changes are designed to streamline approvals under the Act to focus on natural hazards and to improve clarity and consistency in decision-making.

The new regulation refines where development is prohibited. It updates the definition of “watercourse” and adjusts the scope of development restrictions around wetlands. The regulation maintains some regulated areas as they were previously described by regulation, including river and stream valley limits, and areas that are adjacent or close to the shoreline of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System or to inland lakes.

Certain low-risk development activities, including the construction of small seasonal docks and non-habitable structures, will be exempt from requiring permits from the conservation authority when they occur outside of wetlands and watercourses or follow best practices for municipal drain maintenance.

The approved regulation also restricts the conditions conservation authorities are authorized to attached to permits. Conditions imposed by conservation authorities must be directly related to mitigating the impact of natural hazards or any public safety risks due to natural hazards and must be necessary to support the permit’s administration or implementation (e.g., reporting and compliance requirements).

Finally, new rules have been introduced to ensure that conservation authority permits are administered transparently and consistently. These rules require, among other things, that conservation authorities create publicly available maps, updated annually, depicting areas where permits are required; that conservation authorities not request additional studies or technical information after an application is confirmed complete; and that conservation authorities issue an annual report on permitting statistics.

The Municipal & Land Use Planning Group at Aird & Berlis will continue to monitor regulatory changes under the Conservation Authorities Act and will keep you informed of any important updates. If you have questions or require assistance, please contact a member of the group.