Public Lands Act

The Public Lands Act was created to establish the role of the Alberta government in managing its public land, the mechanisms it may be leased or sold and it controls public land use such as recreation areas and trails.

What is the public lands act?

The Public Lands Act (“PLA”) only applies to public land under the administration of the Minister of Environment and Parks and the Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER”). With a few exceptions, title to the beds and shores of (a) all permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water, and (b) all naturally occurring rivers, streams, watercourses and lakes, protected under the Public Lands Act.

Approvals are required under the PLA for any activity that may disturb or modify the bed and/or shore of a water body or impact the aquatic environment. As well, approvals are necessary where a person creates a condition that may cause a danger by fire or soil erosion.

The following activities are exempt from the approval requirement:

  • Temporary, Seasonal Docks/Piers and Associated Mooring Structures – by policy, AEP does not currently require an approval for the placement of docks/piers and associated mooring facilities on the bed and shore of a lake or river, provided that:

     – Use of mooring structures is reasonable

     – A single pier or dock that is appurtenant to a riparian landowner’s upland

     – Associated mooring structures are limited to boat lifts and shelters, or a swimming raft

     – All structures are temporary for seasonal, non-commercial use

     – At the end of the recreational season, all such structures are completely removed from public land and stored on private property over the               winter

  • Pipeline Watercourse Crossings – pipelines installed across a watercourse and regulated by the Code of Practice for Pipelines and Telecommunication Lines Crossing a Water Body under the Water Act will only require an approval under the following conditions:

     – Public land is adjacent on both sides of the watercourse

     – Pipeline company requests an approval to ensure location is identified within departmental records

     – At the request of a departmental officer

  • Road Allowances on Beds and Shores – Generally, title to beds and shores of all permanent and naturally occurring waterbodies, including all naturally occurring rivers, streams, watercourses and lakes, is vested in the Government of Alberta. However, surveyed and un-surveyed road allowances that cross a Government of Alberta-owned waterbody or watercourse are considered to be

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.