In 2019, the Government of Canada made several important changes to the federal Fisheries Act, administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). As a result, water withdrawals in Canada are under greater scrutiny, reinforcing that most projects will require a review by DFO to maintain compliance.
In conjunction with the changes made by DFO, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is actively inspecting water intakes throughout the province. An update was released stating that many recent inspections have revealed that operators are not complying with certain requirements and conditions outlined in their Water Act approvals. Water diverted from fish-bearing sources must have an appropriately sized fish screen to prevent impingement and entrainment of fish. Furthermore, water intakes used to divert water for oil and gas purposes must ensure their equipment complies with the federal Fisheries Act and any project specific provincial approvals (i.e. Water Act approvals). Any non-compliance with AER requirements will be addressed in accordance with Manual 013: Compliance and Enforcement Program and possibly forwarded to DFO for further action.
This update released by the AER uncovers that many operators have not been proactive in getting ahead of regulators or are unaware of the impacts of the regulatory changes, to ensure their water withdrawal projects meet the new standards. To avoid corporate or personal liability for potential fines and penalties, it is imperative to mitigate non-compliance risk and start the required project review process with DFO.
If you are uncertain on how this may affect you and your operations, then seeking guidance and support from a team of experts may be a necessary first step to ensure you are prepared for a mandated inspection by government regulators. The team of regulatory and environment experts at Integrated Sustainability break down the changes made under the Fisheries Act, who is affected, and how their team can support your compliance.
Who Needs This?
Operators across Canada that:
- Hold water withdrawal licences, short or long term, from a fish bearing waterbody or one that is connected to a waterbody that contains fish at any time during the year.
- Control water withdrawal intakes or other structures, whether temporary or permanent, below the high-water mark.
Are You Affected?
The revised requirements under the Fisheries Act oblige operators to submit their project for review, if proponents are unable to implement all mandated measures to protect fish, fish habitat and avoid affects to an aquatic species at risk. Water withdrawal projects from fish bearing waterbodies are inherently unable to implement all the protective measures and therefore require a review by DFO.
The changes are likely to affect you, if:
- Your project has not been reviewed by DFO
- You have an existing DFO project review that was completed prior to 29 August 2019
If you are unsure, meet with Integrated Sustainability for a free consultation.
How Could This Affect You Personally?
DFO is currently working with Provinces to refine enforcement strategies. Large fines, along with possible imprisonment, are still the main tools for enforcing compliance. It is important to note though, individuals can be held personally accountable for infractions. Additionally, an offence that is committed or continued for more than one day, is considered a separate offence and could lead to greater penalties. Enforcement activities are likely to continue into in Summer 2020.
DFO Project Review Process
Integrated Sustainability will help you interpret and understand the implications of the 2019 Fisheries Act revisions and can support you throughout the entire project review process. A Request for Review form is a cost-effective first step in having your project reviewed and approved by DFO.
To get you started, we will provide a list of information requirements to facilitate the completion of the required Request for Review form. Once that information is received, we will complete and submit the Request for Review form to initiate the review process with DFO.
Other Services and Next Steps
Integrated Sustainability can support compliance under the Fisheries Act for other projects potentially affected by the 2019 revisions and determine whether a Request for Review form is required for your project. We can assist in managing these, sometimes challenging to understand and new requirements in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Integrated Sustainability can also support with preparing additional associated documentation and reporting, which may include:
- Completing a fish habitat assessment
- Review and selection of compliant fish screen and water intake designs, to maximize efficiency based on site specific conditions
- Completing a hydrology assessment and bathymetric survey
- Summarizing project activities
- Developing mitigation strategies
- Preparation and submission of water licence applications
- Responding to supplemental information requests from regulators
Schedule and Cost
Costs can be as little as $1,500 and can be completed within as little as 1 week.
The cost and schedule of the assessment may vary, depending on project activities and site-specific conditions.
Questions? Contact Us
Robert Best, M.Sc., P.Biol., R.P.Bio.
Manager, Water Resources
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