Lanarkist

Changes to conservation authority mapping subject of public information session in Perth on June 20

The swale wetlands east of the Bascule Bridge in Smiths Falls is an area of significant wetlands. Laurie Weir photo

South Nation Conservation (SNC), Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) and the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) are welcoming public input on updated development policies and wetland mapping used in Conservation Authority permitting.

On April 1, 2024, the Government of Ontario replaced individual Conservation Authority Regulations under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act, with Ontario Regulation 41/24: Prohibited Activities, Exemptions and Permits. This update requires Conservation Authorities to regulate development activities within 30 metres of all wetlands, as defined by the new regulation. 

Conservation Authority staff have completed draft updates to policies, procedures and mapping in response to these provincial changes. Watershed residents are invited to schedule individual meetings (in-person or virtual) or attend an upcoming public open house to learn more about proposed development policy updates and wetland mapping. 

Wetlands provide significant ecosystem services and benefits including flood attenuation, erosion protection, groundwater recharge, filtration of drinking water supplies, wildlife refuge, and forest cover, as well as recreational, educational, and research opportunities. Wetlands are also usually associated with unstable, organic soils and not always suited to development.

The Conservation Authority partners have regulated development activities within Provincially Significant Wetlands and certain Locally Significant Wetlands since 2006. With the new provincial regulation, most wetlands will now be regulated, however, the buffer around them where a development permit is required has been reduced from 120 metres to 30 metres.

“We recognize the important role of wetlands for the environment and our communities,” said SNC Managing Director John Mesman. “We will work closely with property owners looking to develop their properties to help confirm wetland boundaries to ensure that future development is sustainable and protects the integrity of wetland habitat.”  

“Many of the wetlands in our region connect to major waterways and are found within our Natural Heritage Systems,” said RRCA general manager Alison McDonald. “These areas provide important natural cover, wildlife habitat, and mitigate the impacts of climate change, including flooding and drought.” 

“Having updated policies and wetland mapping that reflects the new legislation will also streamline approvals and standardize approaches,” said RVCA general manager Sommer Casgrain-Robertson. “Policies and mapping are used by staff, municipalities, and property owners to ensure that development is undertaken in a way that protects people and their property from natural hazards while also protecting wetlands and watercourses.

SMITHS FALLS UPDATE

On June 7, Smiths Falls Manager of Development Services Karl Grenke attended an information session in Perth, to learn about the changes. He brought a brief report to Smiths Falls committee of the whole on June 10.

“The range of things they can advise us on or provide planning comment on are smaller and limited to things like natural hazards such as flooding and a few other things – source water protection as one example,” Grenke said. “They can no longer provide formal comment on natural heritage such as ecology or water quality, which means future planning applications are where these matters come into play. We would need to farm out to other third-party consultants if we need that advice to inform council’s decision.”

RVCA has offered Smiths Falls help with its own checklist to determine when and where to look for environmental impact studies, Grenke said.

“RVCA’s regulatory area has been replaced from 120 metres around a significant wetland to only 30, which means that fewer lands would fall under their jurisdiction for review and permits around our wetlands,” he said, like the area around the swale wetlands in Smiths Falls.

“Now the permitting authority extends to all identified wetlands and not just provincially significant wetlands. In Smiths Falls that means there’s actually a few new areas in the southern part of our town that would be regulated by RVCA as local wetlands, non-provincially significant wetlands that presently aren’t regulated.”

The RVCA also shared how they can assist the town with its planning and programming such as tree canopy expansion, evaluating natural heritage features, asset management and exploring things like low-impact development.

“Our current Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw contains several sections related to natural heritage where RVCA review and collaboration is specifically prescribed,” Grenke said. “The new Official Plan policy will need to align with the current legislative practice, but also other areas where we can take a lead role in terms of environmental planning.”

RVCA will host a public consultation overviewing their draft development policies and wetland mapping at the Perth Civitan Club on June 20, from 3 to 8 p.m.

MORE INFORMATION

Policy information, draft maps and meeting request links are available online:
SNC: nation.on.ca/consultations
RVCA: rvca.ca/regulations-planning
RRCA: rrca.on.ca/permits 

Conservation Authorities work on behalf of their member municipalities to help manage, conserve and restore natural resources and guide sustainable development activities through permitting. 

Through acquiring ecologically significant property, managing conservation lands, permitting sustainable development, and providing technical advice and cost-share funding for habitat improvement projects, there are a variety of ways to help improve wetlands and biodiversity within the region. Residents interested in learning more about land donations and project funding are encouraged to contact their local Conservation Authority. 

Contact RVCA’s Diane Downey, director, communications and Ooutreach, at 1-800-257-3504, ext.1126 or email: diane.downey@rvca.ca


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