WHEREAS the Alberta Wetland Policy provides the strategic direction and tools required to make informed management decisions in the long-term interest of Albertans; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Wetland Policy is intended to minimize the loss and degradation of wetlands, while allowing for continued growth and economic development in the province; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive is the policy implementation tool that is intended to promote the avoidance of removal of wetlands and describes the minimization plan, replacement plan and permittee-responsible replacement project requirements where avoidance is not possible; and
WHEREAS section five of the Wetland Mitigation Directive states that applicants can fulfill their replacement obligations through purchase of credits from a third-party wetland bank, making a payment to the in-lieu fee program, or undertaking permittee-responsible replacement; and
WHEREAS the Wetland and Water Boundary Unit of Alberta Environment and Parks has stated that permittee-responsible replacement in the form of enhanced wetlands or constructed wetlands will not be allowed until an enhancement directive or a construction directive to allow for wetland construction is prepared; and
WHEREAS the construction directive has been referenced since June 2017 and no timeline has been given for its adoption;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that Alberta Environment and Parks follow the Wetland Mitigation Directive and that permittee-responsible mitigation either through enhancement or construction of wetlands be allowed, be it either through the Alternative Land Use Services program or through wetlands constructed as a part of stormwater management ponds.
In June of 2018, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) issued an updated Wetland Mitigation Directive. In Section five (Replacement), it is stated that that applicants can fulfill their replacement obligations through a combination of the following options:
Of these options, Option 1, purchasing credits from a third-party wetland bank is not available as a wetland bank program has yet to be established, even though this note has been in the directive since its inception in 2015.
Option 2 refers to the in-lieu fee program. Currently, the only designated agent for wetlands throughout Alberta is Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Red Deer County’s preferred replacement option has been Option 3, permittee-responsible mitigation. This option allows for restoration, enhancement, or construction. Through their Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program, Red Deer County has historically proposed permittee-responsible enhancement of existing wetlands throughout the County.
Furthermore, portions of stormwater management ponds constructed as wetlands were previously accepted for compensation, which also falls under permittee-responsible replacement. However, as these guidelines for wetland compensation through stormwater management ponds have been removed from the July 2017 and June 2018 versions of the directive, this option is no longer available as well.
As a result, municipal options to do wetland replacement at this time, are limited to either in-lieu payment or permittee-responsible wetland restoration.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Parks
Wetlands play a critical role in sustaining healthy watersheds. They protect water quality, provide water storage, recharge groundwater and support biodiversity by offering habitat for wildlife, fish and plants.
The new Wetland Replacement Dedicated Revenue Initiative supports a fully developed, integrated wetland management system, as recommended by the Office of the Auditor General, and promotes greater municipal involvement in wetland restoration decisions throughout the province. Once implemented, the new draft Wetland Construction Directive and Guide will allow municipalities and developers to apply wetlands constructed as part of stormwater management systems toward their wetland replacement obligations.
Alberta Environment and Parks will continue to engage with key stakeholders to ensure that wetland policy requirements are accessible, consistent and efficient, while remaining aligned with legislative and regulatory obligations.
Changes to the management of wetland replacement in Alberta allow for greater flexibility in how municipalities can work locally to replace disturbed wetlands. The response by the Government of Alberta indicates that a future Wetlands Construction Directive and Guide will allow municipalities to apply wetlands constructed as part of a stormwater management system as part of their wetland replacement obligations.
Given the tentative direction provided by the Government of Alberta, the RMA assigns this resolution a status of Accepted in Principle, and will continue to monitor the draft Wetlands Construction Directive and Guide for completeness.