+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 17-18F

Alberta Environment and Parks Additional Resources for Water Act Approvals

Date:
November 21, 2018
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2021
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Rocky View County
District:
2 - Central
Year:
2018
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Environment
Status:
Sent to Government
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS municipalities share the Government of Alberta’s objective of serving the public good through proper implementation of the Water Act; and

WHEREAS the current timeline for Water Act approvals through Alberta Environment and Parks poses significant financial, environmental, and social challenges for all municipalities; and

WHEREAS improving the Water Act approval process will ensure public dollars are efficiently applied to the protection and stewardship of water systems in Alberta while balancing the need for critical upgrades to public infrastructure; and

WHEREAS Alberta Environment and Parks is undertaking a process and systems review to improve its approval times with constrained financial resources;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to allocate sufficient financial resources to improve and streamline its Water Act approvals process and systems.

Member Background:

Rural municipalities are experiencing significant delays when seeking approvals under the Water Act to proceed with infrastructure improvements. These delays impose significant financial, environmental, and social challenges for all municipalities. For example:

  • Red Deer County has experienced both delays in timelines and additional costs incurred when working to meet Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) regulations and obtain the required approvals, including Public Lands approvals. Much of the County’s road network consists of rural roadways that require numerous watercourse crossings. The process to complete a Wetland Assessment and Impact Report is lengthy and expensive and must be completed during the growing season (May – October). In several instances, this has delayed the County from identifying a road in need of rehabilitation over the winter and tendering it for construction in the summer. It has also caused the cancellation of certain maintenance projects surrounded by wetlands.
  • Rocky View County has submitted a number of drainage relief projects where the response times to the applications have been extensive (up to three years) and were followed by unilateral closure of files. Municipalities have limited time to execute a construction project during the spring and summer seasons, so any delays or refusals push a project back for up to one year. Extended response times have resulted in a loss of public trust in the County’s ability to deliver infrastructure projects, and jeopardized land purchases.

Most rural municipalities can identify unreasonably long approval times that have added additional project costs, delayed upgrades that have impacted its residents’ quality of life, and/or slowed infrastructure upgrades designed to improve environmental performance. In response to these delays Red Deer County has brought forward a resolution focused on improving the approval process for municipalities, while the County of Settler has focused on relaxing the need for formal approvals under the Water Act.

AEP has acknowledged the delays and is working to improve its process and systems. Recently, there have been drastic improvements in response times from the Water Boundaries unit to determine if a waterbody/wetland is Crown claimed. However, an overall process upgrade is necessary to develop digital application systems if performance is to be improved. As AEP seeks to improve its processes, the department is operating in a constrained financial environment. Rural municipalities recognize that approval delays have a multiplier effect and result in financial, social, and environmental impacts to the residents and the province. Therefore, Rocky View County is requesting support for AEP as it seeks to improve its response times.

RMA Background:

4-17F: Water Act Approvals for Municipal Projects on Municipal Land

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to relax the requirement for formal approvals on all road construction on municipal right of ways less than 40 metres wide and consider alternate strategies for protecting water resources.

DEVELOPMENT: Though the response from the Government of Alberta recognizes the challenges faced by municipalities who are subject to relatively short construction seasons and extensive infrastructure networks, the response does not indicate any change in process or regulation to the extent outlined in the resolution. This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.

1-16F: Alberta Environment and Parks Approvals for Construction Projects

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties requests that consideration be given to safety concerns related to delayed environmental approval processing and supports the creation of a process for municipalities to receive timely approvals from Alberta Environment with regard to construction projects.

DEVELOPMENT: The Government of Alberta response acknowledges the challenges that municipalities are facing in receiving timely approvals of works related to wetlands. The RMA is encouraged that Alberta Environment and Parks has identified this as a problem and is in the process of developing an updated regulatory process for road works impacting wetlands which will balance provincial and municipal needs regarding regulatory compliance and timeliness. The Government of Alberta has indicated that an Alberta Wetland Construction Directive and Alberta Wetland Construction Guide are forthcoming but have been delayed as of April 2018. The RMA assigns this resolution a status of Accepted in Principle, and will monitor progress made.

Provincial Ministries:
Environment and Parks
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