What is the environmental protection and enhancement act?
The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (“EPEA”) includes provisions that require the review of proposed projects that could cause an adverse effect on the environment, and the reclamation and conservation of land. Alberta Environment and Parks (“AEP”) and the Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER”) administer the Act.
Environmental impacts assessments
The primary purpose of the environmental assessment (“EA”) process is to integrate environmental protection and economic decisions at the earliest stages of planning, predict the environmental, social, economic and cultural consequences of proposed activities, and assess plans to mitigate any adverse impacts. All “mandatory” activities require an EA, and so do and any projects for which the potential environmental impacts warrant further consideration.
Mandatory activities under the Environmental Assessment (Mandatory and Exempted Activities) Regulation include dams greater than 15 meters in height, water diversion structures and canals with capacity greater than 15 m3/sec. and water reservoirs with capacity greater than 30 million cubic meters.
Exempted activities include the:
- Widening or realignment of an existing highway; and
- Maintenance and rehabilitation of a water management project, including a dyke, dam, weir floodgate, breakwater, drain, groyne, ditch, basin, reservoir, canal, tunnel, bridge, culvert, embankment, headwork, fishway, flume, aqueduct, pipe, pump or measuring weir.
Water management projects
Water management projects that require an environmental assessment under EPEA (i.e. they are included in the list of mandatory activities in the Environmental Assessment (Mandatory and Exempted Activities) Regulation) are the construction, operation or reclamation of
- A dam greater than 15 metres in height when measured to the top of the dam
- From the natural bed of the watercourse at the downstream toe of the dam, in the case of a dam across a watercourse, or
- From the lowest elevation at the outside limit of the dam, in the case of a dam that is not across a watercourse
- A water diversion structure and canals with a capacity greater than 15 cubic metres per second
- A water reservoir with a capacity greater than 30 million cubic metres
If the proposed project is not a mandatory activity as defined by the regulation, the Director may decide that the potential environmental impacts warrant further consideration and order that an environmental assessment be undertaken.
A permit is required to divert water, or prior to developing the following structures or modifications on lake beds, shores and floodplains:
- Any project (temporary or permanent) that impacts the aquatic environment or involves the disturbance, modification, placement or removal of material on the lake’s bed, shore or floodplain (includes removal of pressure ridges caused by ice thrusts and the placement of sand for beaches)
- Any commercial development (temporary or permanent)
- Cutting or removal of aquatic vegetation
- Erosion protection, retaining walls, groynes, breakwaters and causeways
- Permanent piers, boat launches, boathouses, etc., and other associated improvements
- Permanent waterline installations into or beneath the lake
- Other permanent structures on the bed, shore or floodplain of the lake
Applications are reviewed for potential impacts to the water body’s bed and shore, floodplain, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and public access.
Sections 60 and 61 of EPEA prohibit anyone from commencing or continuing an activity designated by the regulations as requiring an approval or registration unless they hold the required approval or registration. The Activities Designation Regulation (“ADR”) lists the activities that require an approval, a registration, or the filing of a notice. Registration activities are governed by a code of practice.
There are only two activities that require a notice; all other activities listed in the ADR require either an approval or registration.