WHEREAS wetlands are a vital part of Alberta’s ecological landscape and necessary for a sustainable economy and healthy communities; and
WHEREAS the Wetland Replacement Program (WRP) aims to re-establish wetlands in partnership with Albertans by providing resources for collaborative restoration projects across the province; and
WHEREAS under the Alberta Wetland Policy, the WRP will offset wetland area lost due to activities on the land; and
WHEREAS a priority of the Alberta Wetland Policy and WRP is to replace wetlands within municipalities and watersheds that have had the highest amount of lost wetland area since 2015, as well as areas of high historical loss; and
WHEREAS the WRP focuses on fostering partnerships with municipalities and non-profits that have a vested interest in wetland replacement; and
WHEREAS the WRP contemplates wetland restoration which includes returning natural/historic area and hydrological functions to a drained, partially drained, or filled-in wetland, and wetland construction, which includes creating a wetland on a site that was historically non-wetland; and
WHEREAS the WRP could become a vehicle to educate Albertans about our natural environments, as well as enhance community wellness, recreation, and tourism opportunities;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta engage with the Government of Alberta to simplify and expand the eligibility for projects under the Wetland Replacement Program.
The Wetland Replacement Program (WRP) aims to re-establish wetlands in partnership with Albertans by providing resources for collaborative restoration projects across the province. Wetlands are a vital part of Alberta’s ecological landscape and necessary for a sustainable economy and healthy communities. Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) is funding eligible wetland replacement projects and is seeking to establish partnerships with more municipalities and non-profits. AEP is currently working with 11 municipalities and one non-profit to replace wetlands in Alberta.
A priority of the Alberta Wetland Policy and WRP is to replace wetlands within municipalities and watersheds that have had the highest amount of lost wetland area since 2015, as well as areas of high historical loss.
Wetland replacement includes the following activities:
In 2020, seven wetland replacement projects were funded and completed totaling 158 hectares of restored or new wetland habitat through these successful partnerships, utilizing $3.7 million of WRP funding.
The WRP is an implementation tool of the Alberta Wetland Policy (AWP). The AWP was developed by Alberta Environment and Parks and stakeholders in 2013 to conserve, restore, protect, and manage Alberta’s wetlands in ways that sustain the benefits they provide to the environment, society, and economy. Review the Alberta Wetland Policy here.
Since 2020, Smoky Lake County has put forth several potential project scenarios under the WRP . Several of these would have provided additional storm or wastewater services in addition to their core function as constructed wetlands. Unfortunately, each have been found to fall outside the scope-of-program.
If the WRP were to be expanded toward a more holistic approach similar to the Canada Natural Infrastructure Fund, the program would likely garner far many more successful projects, thereby achieving the program goals as well as economic development, community wellness, and stewardship.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Protected Areas
The Wetland Replacement Program focuses on replacing lost wetland and has two eligible project types: wetland restoration and wetland construction. Working with participants in 2020 and 2021, the program replaced over 200 hectares of wetland and provided over $5 million in funding. In 2022, the program replaced over 150 hectares of lost wetland and provided over $5.6 million in funding.
Some wetland enhancement projects, such as making ponds deeper to increase storage capacity, do not result in an increase in wetland area, so they are not eligible for the program. Wetland enhancements that result in increased function (but not area) may be eligible for funding through other programs, such as the department’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program. Projects eligible under this program include enhancing wetland hydrologic and habitat functions through native vegetation plantings and bio-engineering, natural stormwater management, riparian fencing, and off-stream watering systems.
The Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program is similar to the Canada Natural Infrastructure Fund – it is a competitive grant program that funds organizations to develop and use nature-based solutions, such as wetlands, for climate resilience. Since 2015, the department has invested $40 million in the program toward project outcomes that support economic development, community wellness, and stewardship. You can find more information about both programs at alberta.ca by searching for each program by name.
The Government of Alberta response does not address the intent of the resolution: to expand the project eligibility scope of the Wetland Replacement Program to include projects that enhance existing wetlands or redevelop constructed wetlands to provide enhanced community benefits. RMA will follow up with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas as to potentially expanding the Wetland Replacement Program. This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.