What is the Canadian navigable waters act?
The Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA) (formerly the Navigation Protection Act [NPA]) administered by Transport Canada legislates the protection of navigation on all public navigable waterways in Canada through the Navigation Protection Program. Regulatory approval is required in navigable waters where the works may interfere with navigability. Scheduled navigable waters are included in the List of Scheduled Waters under the NPA. For works in non-scheduled waterways, it is up to the owners of the works (or their designate) to determine if their project is to occur within a navigable waterway. Non-scheduled, navigable waterways are still protected under the CNWA and could be subject to court proceedings if the works interfere with navigation.
The CNWA prohibits the construction, placement, alteration, rebuilding, removal or decommissioning of a work, in, on, over, under, through or across navigable waters unless an approval has been issued by the Minister prior to commencement of construction. A “work” includes any structure, device or thing, whether temporary or permanent, that is made by humans. It also includes the dumping of fill or the excavation of materials from the bed of any navigable water. If the Minister considers that two or more works are related, the Minister may deem them to be a single work.
What does the canadian navigable waters act cover?
There are three main categories of works under the CNWA: Minor Works, Major Works, and other works in navigable waters.
Minor Works are works that may proceed without review or approval under the CNWA, as long as they comply with set criteria for that type of project. The classes of works established by the Minor Works Order are:
- Erosion – Protection Works;
- Docks and Boathouses;
- Boat Ramps, Slipways and Launch Ramps;
- Aerial Cables – Power and Telecommunication;
- Submarine Cables – Power and Telecommunication;
- Pipelines Buries Under the Bed of Navigable Water;
- Pipelines and Power or Communication Cables Attached to Existing Works;
- Works within a Boomed-Off Area Upstream or Downstream of an Existing Work for Water Control;
- Outfalls and Water Intakes;
- Dredging; and
- Mooring Systems.
Major Works are projects that have the potential to significantly interfere with navigation.
For these classes of works, an application for approval must be submitted to the Minister and a project notification must be published through the Navigation Protection Program for any interested parties to review and comment on. The classes of works established by the Major Works Order are:
- Aquaculture sites;
- Works – Water control structures; and
- Ferry cables.
For other types of projects that may interfere with navigation in navigable waters, an application for approval must be submitted to the Minister and a project notification must be published through the Navigation Protection Program for any interested parties to review and comment on (similar to the Major Works regulatory process).
Contact us for additional guidance around the CNWA and applicable application requirements, or learn more online at: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/programs-673.html