Conservation Authorities Act

Section 28 Regulations

In order to maintain the vitality of our watersheds and protect peoples’ lives and property from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion, Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities administer the Conservation Authorities Act and its associated regulations. 

History of Conservation Authorities Act Regulations

The Conservation Authorities Act was created in 1946 in response to erosion and drought concerns, recognizing that these and other resource initiatives are best managed on a watershed basis. 

In 1956, in response to the severe economic and human losses associated with Hurricane Hazel, amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act empowered Conservation Authorities to create regulations to prohibit filling in floodplains. These regulations were broadened in 1960 to prohibit or regulate the placing or dumping of fill in defined areas where, in the opinion of the Conservation Authorities, the control of flooding, pollution or the conservation of land may be affected.

In 1968, amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act further extended the regulations to prohibit or control construction and alteration to waterways, in addition to filling.

In 1998, the Conservation Authorities Act was amended to ensure that regulations under the Act were consistent across the province and complementary to provincial policies. Revisions were made to Section 28, which led to the replacement of the “Fill, Construction and Alteration to Waterways” Regulation with the current “Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses” Regulation.

Ontario Regulation 97/04 outlines the content that each Conservation Authority’s “Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses” Regulation would contain. While some Conservation Authorities have been regulating wetlands, shorelines and inter-connecting channels for years, the amendments required all Conservation Authorities to regulate Great Lakes shorelines, interconnecting channels, inland lakes and wetlands in addition to the areas and features each Conservation Authority historically regulated. 

On March 4, 2011, Ontario Regulation 97/04 was amended to streamline the permitting process and to support Conservation Authority compliance with the timelines for decisions on permit applications. 

Current Regulations - What is regulated?

In 2006, the Minister of Natural Resources approved the individual "Development, Interference and Alteration" Regulations for all Conservation Authorities (Ontario Regulations 42/06 and 146/06 to 182/06) consistent with Ontario Regulation 97/04. Through these regulations, Conservation Authorities are empowered to regulate development and activities in or adjacent to river or stream valleys, Great Lakes and inland lakes shorelines, watercourses, hazardous lands and wetlands. They ensure conformity of wording across all Conservation Authorities and complement municipal implementation of provincial policies under the Planning Act such as hazardous lands and wetlands. Development taking place on these lands may require permission from the Conservation Authority to confirm that the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches, pollution or the conservation of land are not affected. They also regulate the straightening, changing, diverting or interfering in any way with the existing channel of a river, creek, stream, watercourse or for changing or interfering in any way with a wetland.

Is a permit required?

To find out if your property is located in a regulated area (river or stream valley, Great Lakes and inland lake shorelines, hazardous lands, watercourses and wetlands) or if a development activity you wish to undertake is regulated, please contact your local Conservation Authority. Your local Conservation Authority can also provide advice about their permit and approval process. 

Drainage Act and Conservation Authorities Act Protocol

Working as part of a multi-stakeholder Drainage Act & Section 28 Regulations Team (DART), co-chaired by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Conservation Authorities, in partnership with representatives from the drainage sector, agricultural sector, and municipalities have completed a protocol for drain maintenance and repair activities. The purpose of this provincially approved document is to improve communications, promote best practices, and streamline the permitting process under the Conservation Authorities Act for municipal drain maintenance and repair work performed under the Drainage Act. Read the report Drainage Act and Conservation Authorities Act Protocol.

Erosion Control and Remediation

Under the Conservation Authorities Act, Conservation Authorities:

  • Study and investigate the watershed for the potential of these hazards,
  • Monitor areas affected by flooding and erosion, and
  • Address and remediate erosion

Shoreline Erosion

Soils along the shorelines of lakes, rivers and streams are gradually impacted by various forces including wind, water, ice, and gravity. Although erosion is a natural process, it can be dramatically accelerated by changes in land use, such as removal of shoreline vegetation. Without the presence of a healthy vegetated buffer, shorelines are more likely to experience erosion, potentially resulting in a loss of habitat, soil stability, land and built infrastructure.

Conservation Authorities help protect shorelines and properties located along them by developing shoreline management plans in collaboration with all levels of government and residents.

Great Lakes Water Levels

Water levels in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River systems and large inland lakes fluctuate because of natural influences such as rainfall, evaporation, wind, storms and water diversion or control structures. Soil type, surface and groundwater, bluff height, vegetation cover, shoreline orientation and other factors such as wind, waves, climate and lake level fluctuations determine how fast a shoreline will erode.

Conservation Authorities regulate shorelines and adjacent lands to ensure that development doesn’t aggravate existing erosion, flooding or dynamic beach hazards. They also make sure new hazards aren’t created and that new development is not at risk.

Development, Interference & Alteration Regulations for all Conservation Authorities (Ontario Regulations 42/06 and 146/06 to 182/06)
Policies and Procedures for Conservation Authority Plan Review and Permitting Activities