+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 7-03S

Impact of DFO Requirements on Municipal Projects

January 1, 2003
Expiry Date:
March 31, 2006
Active Status:
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a mandate under the Fisheries Act to protect fish habitat in Canadian streams and waterways all across Canada;AND WHEREAS the mitigation of impacts on fish habitat in streams and waterways is a very costly and time-consuming process, a burden largely borne by the local authority;AND WHEREAS the responsibility for works in, around and over Canadian streams and waterways lies largely with local municipalities all across Canada;AND WHEREAS fish habitat mitigation measures proposed by DFO officials need to be based on a practical and realistic assessment of the local conditions;AND WHEREAS the requirements relating to fish habitat mitigation identified by DFO officials should be predictable, reliable and consistent in the way they are applied, all across Canada;AND WHEREAS local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that public works projects are carried out in the most practical, realistic and therefore fiscally responsible manner possible;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties work with officials of the Government of Alberta to jointly urge officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure that procedures and processes relating to fish habitat mitigation projects in local municipalities are transparent, consistent, and predictable in the way that they are applied;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans personnel to continue to develop positive and cooperative relationships with provincial and local authorities, to better facilitate practical, cost-effective solutions to completing public works projects in local jurisdictions.

Member Background:

The following comments describe concerns raised by various municipalities relating to their experience with DFO officials.Comments from Individual Municipalities:requirements seem to be a moving targetdepends on the mood of the Inspectorcriteria seems to change from one situation/location to anotherlack of reality in associating costs with expectations on projectsno net loss policy seems to suggest twice as much mitigation to ensure policyDFO directives seem intent on establishing fish habitat where none currently existsneed to establish goals, guidelines and realistic expectationsneed the equivalent of AENVs Code of Practiceofficers obnoxious/confrontationalso-called window of operation described as fixed; yet seems to be amendable by DFO officials at their whima project in one location should not be a trade-off for allowing mitigation measures/or not in another locationbridges are frequently proposed to replace existing culverts; a very expensive and probably unnecessary initiativelack of practical approach and realistic assessment of situationsquestion the practicality and workability of the windowwho is accountable for DFO activities?what is the administrative hierarchy?threatening attitude/approach does not encourage resolution of challengesrequirements for extensive/expensive mitigation measurements in streams, where historically very limited flow occurse.g. Heavy rainfall or spring run-offe.g. Streams at end of irrigation systemDFO needs to be part of the solution at the beginning of the process/projectdefinitive answers are lackingEngineering designs have to be inclusive of DFO expectations, which need to be available prior to undertaking designDFO may ask for design or study then decides when completed whether it was satisfactory or notRequests for fish studies need clear and well defined parametersArbitrary decisions about the suitability of studies made after being receivedIf a fish study is to mitigate the impact of another project the conditions/details must be spelled out and not modified afterwardsMember Comments Made at 2002 AAMD&C Fall ConventionIt was clear from comments brought forward by representatives from jurisdictions all across Alberta at the Mayors and Reeves Meeting on November 18, 2002 that there are issues related to the working relationship DFO officials have with local jurisdictions.Some of the following issues were raised in a question posed by Mr. Len Mitzel, Chairman of the Mayors and Reeves, to the Honourable Andy Mitchell, Secretary of State of Rural Development, Government of Canada in a plenary session at the Convention:Concerns about the heavy-handed approach sometimes used by DFO officials when dealing with local governments, companies and individualsConcerns about the cumbersome and time-consuming process generated by the need for multi-jurisdiction approvals required for local government projectse.g. DFO, Coast Guard, Alberta EnvironmentConcerns about impractical and unrealistic expectations by DFO personnel to create fish habitat when none has previously existede.g. very intermittent water flow, dry for most of year except for seasonal high flow eventsOther Issues:Prior concerns with DFO as raised by AAMD&C and/or individual member municipalities include the following:Costs of meeting DFO proposals for fish mitigation on local works projectsUnwillingness to identify which streams are or are not of concernmap may exist but not availableProblems dealing with 2 pieces of federal legislation:Fisheries and Oceans; and Coast Guard (Navigable Waters)

RMA Background:

The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect with respect to the issue of enforcement of fish habitat protection requirements by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.However, the AAMDC has worked since 1998 to relay member concerns on this issue to federal and provincial officials, most notably through the 1998 commissioning of a comprehensive report on the burden placed on municipalities as a result of various environmental regulatory requirements (the AGRA Report). This report has formed the basis of AAMDC lobby efforts on this issue since its adoption by members in 1998.Earlier this year, the AAMDC surveyed all members to obtain detailed information regarding their experiences with DFO officials, and the results of this survey will be used in future efforts to achieve changes to federal environmental requirements. Federal Secretary of State for Rural Development Andy Mitchell has agreed to work with AAMDC to seek solutions to our concerns.

Provincial Ministries:
Treasury Board and Finance,
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
Federal Ministries and Bodies:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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