Planning & Permitting Terms

When Cataraqui Conservation reviews planning and permit applications we consider the impacts of the following: Wetlands, Floodplains, Slopes and Erosion, Waterbodies, and Fish Habitat. A detailed explanation about why each of these is important is listed below.

Wetlands

Wetlands benefit our environment by storing water and releasing it slowly. they reduce flooding and recharge groundwater, lakes, rivers, and streams when they release their stored water slowly over time. Wetland plants filter contaminants, prevent erosion and store nutrients. Wetlands also provide important habitat to a variety of wildling including fish, birds and animals.

Building or filling in or near a wetland not only disrupts the natural functions of the wetland, it can lead to possible damage to property. Moving, extending, or constructing buildings within a wetland can result in water entering basements and cracked foundations.

Floodplains

The land next to a lake, river or stream where data has revealed that flooding is anticipated is called a floodplain. This area is usually defined through a study and mapping that accounts for weather, topography and soil types. The study determines how high the water will rise during a major storm and/or spring melt.

In the Cataraqui Region, as with the rest of southeastern Ontario, we plan for the 1:100 year (1 in 100 year) flood. This means that a flood has a one per cent chance of happening in any year. We often refer to the 1:100 year flood as the regulatory flood because this is what is used in our regulations and planning policies.

Cataraqui Conservation protects people and property from this flood by making sure that all buildings and structures are located outside of the floodplain and that the size of the floodplain is not reduced by filling. If fill is placed in the floodplain, the water that used to flow into that area during flood conditions moves into an area that did not previously flood. This could result in personal injury and property loss.

On Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River we also need to account for flooding that is caused by wave action. This additional factor is called wave uprush.

Slopes & Erosion

Slopes along lakes and rivers can be unstable and dangerous as building sites.

Erosion is the process that occurs when the land surface is worn away. There are many different types of erosion, as well as many causes. Cataraqui Conservation is primarily concerned with erosion along valleys, slopes next to lakes, rivers, streams and other waterbodies. In these areas, scouring from both constant water flow and from increased velocity due to runoff or storm events contributes to erosion. When trees and plants along slopes are removed, erosion worsens.

If a structure is built at the top of a slope without consideration for slope stability, it is possible that the slope could erode over time and the structure would be damaged or lost. Through the regulation permit process, Cataraqui Conservation makes sure that all structures are located outside of areas subject to erosion.

Waterbodies

This is an all-inclusive term that refers to all bodies of water including lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and ponds. A waterbody is sensitive to changes to its channel or along its shoreline. Altering a waterbody may harm water quality, limit fish passage, destroy habitat or increase siltation and the risk of flooding. You cannot straighten, change, divert or interfere with a waterbody without a Cataraqui Conservation Permit.

Fish Habitat

Fish habitat is the spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas that fish depend on, directly or indirectly, to carry out their life processes. Fish include shellfish, such as clams and mussels, and crustaceans, such as crayfish, as well as marine animals at all stages of their life cycles.

Some important elements for fish habitat include:

  • in-water vegetation
  • shoreline vegetation
  • debris, such as dead stumps and logs
  • rock
  • clean water.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between planning & permitting?

A planning application is made for a development proposal that requires approval under the Planning Act by a municipality and is done prior to applying for a building permit. The types of planning applications include, minor variance, land severance (consent), zoning by-law amendment, plan of subdivision or other Planning Act applications normally made to your municipality or the relevant planning authority.

A Cataraqui Conservation regulation permit application is required after your planning application is approved (if required) and you wish to proceed with the proposed development activity (e.g. building, structure, marine facility, etc.). A permit may also be required for excavation, placement of fill (originating on the site or from elsewhere) and lot grading.

The planning approval process establishes the principle of the proposed development whereas the permit approval process involves the review and approval of specific details of the development proposal.

NOTE: Not all development projects require a planning application. However, all buildings and structures greater than 10 square metres (108 square feet) do require a regulation permit if the building or structure is located within an area that is subject to Cataraqui Conservation’s regulation.

What areas are of interest to Cataraqui Conservation, or what areas are regulated?

Areas of interest typically include waterbodies (rivers, creeks, streams, ponds), natural heritage features (wetlands, woodlands, Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest and valleylands), lands affected by natural hazards (steep slopes, erosion-prone lands, floodplains and the St. Lawrence River / Lake Ontario shoreline) and lands within vulnerable drinking water sources (significant groundwater recharge areas, highly vulnerable aquifers, intake protection zones, wellhead protection zones).

A permit may be required for any development (e.g., construction, filling, lot grading) that occurs:

  • within 15 m of a defined flood plain where flood plain mapping is available
  • within 30 metres of a waterbody where flood plain mapping is not available
  • within 30 metres of the top of the valley of a river, creek, stream, or lake
  • within 120 metres of a provincially significant wetland
  • within 30 metres of all other wetlands greater than 0.5 ha in area

How do I know if my property is in a regulated area?

For planning applications, contact your local municipality which maintains screening maps for areas of interest to Cataraqui Conservation.

For permit inquiries, put in an information request to Cataraqui Conservation using the Property Inquiry Form or contact the Administration Office at 613-546-4228 ext. 221 or email info@crca.ca.

Permit Questions:

How do I apply for a permit?

  1. Submit an online “Permit Application Form” or contact the Cataraqui Conservation Administration Office 613-546-4228 ext. 221.
  2. Once you submit an online form, staff will review your project and send you a Permit Application Package that requests detailed information such as site plans and technical drawings. See the “Sample Application Package” for what may be required. Your application will be reviewed when all of the requested information is received by staff.
  3. Staff will then work with you on the details of your project which may include a site visit. Permits will only be issued once payment has been received.

If you need to talk with Cataraqui Conservation staff in person about your application please set-up an appointment to come into the office. Staff contacts and what municipalities they service are listed in the menu to the right.

How do I know if I need a permit or clearance letter?

You may need a permit for development within a regulated area of a nearby waterbody or land affected by natural hazards. This includes:

  • in the channel of a watercourse or municipal drain,
  • in a lake, river, stream, pond or a wetland,
  • within 15 m of a defined floodplain,
  • within 30 metres of a waterbody that does not have floodplain mapping information,
  • within 30 m of the top of valley of a river, creek, stream, or lake,
  • within 120 m of a provincially significant wetland
  • within 30 m of all other wetlands greater than 0.5 ha.

If your property is only partially within the regulated area and the proposed development is outside of the limit of the regulated area, a clearance letter will be provided. A clearance letter signals to the municipality that Cataraqui Conservation reviewed the proposal and determined that the proposed development does not require a Cataraqui Conservation permit.

What types of development activities are regulated by Cataraqui Conservation?

These include:

  • Development of buildings or other structures
  • Site alteration, including the placement of fill, grading, or excavation
  • Alteration to a shoreline (e.g., dock, boathouse, boat ramp, or erosion protection)
  • Alteration to a watercourse (e.g., watercourse cleanout, installation of culvert, or channel re-alignment)
  • Removal of vegetation within a wetland or the removal of vegetation adjacent to a wetland that affects or alters the existing grade of the land

Why does Cataraqui Conservation Need to review my project?

Cataraqui Conservation reviews your project in order to fulfil our mandate under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act (Ontario Regulation 148/06), which is intended to protect life, property, and the environment by directing development to areas that are not hazardous, and protecting the natural features, hydrologic and ecological functions of wetlands.

Will I still need a building permit or other approvals?

Yes. The Cataraqui Conservation permit is in addition to other permitting authorities. Contact your local municipal office for information on building permits and other approvals. Cataraqui Conservation’s permit does not relieve you from compliance with any other applicable federal, provincial or municipal statutes, regulations or by-laws

What might cause an application to be refused?

A proposed development that does not comply with Cataraqui Conservation guidelines for implementing the regulation may be refused. Reasons for refusing a permit could include unacceptable risk to life and property from natural hazards (e.g. flooding, erosion), adverse impacts to the natural environment (e.g., negative impacts on the hydrologic or ecological function of wetlands), etc.

What happens if I don't get a permit before I start my project?

Once Cataraqui Conservation staff have verified that an activity has occurred within a regulated area, they will attempt to contact the property owner or site contractor to discuss the situation. Staff will first try to address infractions by working cooperatively with involved parties to obtain the proper permit or develop a plan to restore the affected area.

If a retroactive permit is required, the application fee will be twice the regular fee.

If a solution is not agreed upon, Cataraqui Conservation can pursue legal action. The involved parties may be charged and taken to court. If convicted, the court may require the involved parties to pay a fine and/or restore the property to its original condition, at the expense of the involved parties. Restoration could include removing structures or restoring a natural feature, such as a wetland.

Can a Cataraqui Conservation permit application decision be appealed?

Yes. Any applicant who has been refused permission may, within 30 days of receipt of the decision and reasons for refusal, appeal to the Cataraqui Conservation Full Authority Board. Appeals are subject to an administration surcharge of $500.

Shoreline Questions:

Do I need a permit for a dock?

A permit is not required for a dock if:

  • if is considered removable/seasonal (e,g. floating dock (with anchor), cantilevered (lifts up and down), aluminum frame resting on the bed of lake), and does not interfere with a wetland or its ecological functions. Where wetlands are present, further conditions must be met to determine if a dock needs a permit. You should consult with Cataraqui Conservation staff if you are proposing to put a dock in a wetland to find out if you need a permit.
    • A permit may be required for the support system of a removable/seasonal dock if the dock will be attached to the shore by a new support system (e.g. concrete pad), if fill is placed or removed of the lake/river bottom or shore is otherwise altered.

dock design examples: removable floating dock, removable pipe dock, cantilever dock

Images left to right: Removable floating dock, removable pipe dock, cantilever dock

A permit is required if:

  • a new dock is permanent (e.g. post pile-supported).
  • an existing permanent dock is being replaced or significantly repaired or altered (e.g. replacement of framing/foundation, full rebuild).
  • a crib structure is being decommissioned and crib material is being removed from the site.

Dock design examples: permanent post dock, permanent open crib dock

Images left to right: Permanent post dock, permanent open crib dock.

Can I reclaim land I've lost because of erosion?

To an extent yes. Typically Cataraqui Conservation protocol is to work with landowners to protect/repair their existing shoreline. The intent is to limit the amount of fill that is being placed within the regulatory floodplain and to minimize  drainage issue onto neighbouring properties.

Due to repeated high-water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in recent years, land reclamation will be considered to a certain degree on a site-by-site basis as long as the landowner is able to clearly demonstrate and provide proof there has been recent loss of land. Permit approval is required for this type of activity.

How can I stop shoreline erosion?

First, consider whether the erosion has negative impacts or associated risks to you or your surroundings if left unmanaged. Erosion is a natural occurrence, in some instances, may not need to be addressed through artificial protect measures. For example, erosion that causes the undercutting of river/shoreline banks (if not creating a risk to public safety) can be left untouched since these areas are a great form of habitat within the riparian zone.

First and foremost, the best way to protect against shoreline erosion is to maintain a healthy buffer of natural vegetation with a variety of plants, trees, and shrubs with hardy root systems. Where enhanced protection measures are necessary, there are many methods for protecting your shoreline to minimize erosion. Bioengineering, a method of construction for erosion and sediment control that uses live plants alone or a combination of live plants and other construction materials, should be considered as it produces a living system that preserves the natural function and resilience of the nearshore areas.

A shoreline that experiences higher levels of impact due to wave action, ice force, or flow may require more ‘heavy duty’ protection. The placement of rip-rap material (clean angular stone or rock rubble) on top of geotextile filter fabric along a sloped shoreline is a supported option and is effective in dissipating wave action. It also prevents soil particles from washing out while allowing land-based runoff to naturally percolate back into the waterbody. Rip-rap can often be combined with bioengineering methods by planting native shrubs and plants among the rip-rap material to preserve needed plant materials for a healthy ecosystem. In some cases rip-rap material may not sufficiently protect a shoreline, therefore it is encouraged to consult with a coastal engineer to come up with a best solution for a given problem and location.

Subject to existing characteristics and topography of a shoreline, new vertical or tiered shoreline walls may only be considered where other methods of shoreline stabilization such as bioengineering or rip-rap have been considered and found to be inappropriate due to site conditions.

The retaining wall at my property is failing, what do I need to do to replace it?

It is likely you will require a Cataraqui Conservation permit to repair or replace a failing retaining wall. It is suggest to contact staff to discuss your proposal as recommendations and supported designs can be further discussed. Cataraqui Conservation focuses on natural options which are often more cost effective to the landowner, beneficial to the environment, and provide a suitable level of protection to your shoreline.

Are bubbler systems allowed?

Cataraqui Conservation does not regulate bubbler systems. We are currently unaware of a regulatory agency which regulates bubbler systems.

Can the conservation authority stop people from clearing shoreline vegetation?

Yes, but only in certain circumstances. For example, if the clearing is in connection with a wetland since vegetation removal can impact the ecological function of a wetland or if the vegetation clearing also involves alteration to the shoreline such as excavation, placement of fill or grading.

A vegetated shoreline has many benefits including:

  • acting as a natural form of erosion protection
  • protecting lake or river water quality by filtering the water leaving a property
  • providing important terrestrial and aquatic habitat
  • providing a level of privacy

Clearing a shoreline of vegetation negatively impacts the natural biome and ecosystem health that comes with a natural shoreline.

You should contact the conservation authority to discuss your proposal for vegetation removal to confirm whether there may be any regulatory requirements. Staff are happy to discuss options for keeping your shoreline natural while addressing any concerns of needs. You may also want to download a copy of our Lake Protection Workbook for self-assessment of your property and resources.

Will I get in touble if I clean-up the shoreline to make a better area for swimming?

It depends on what is meant by “clean-up” the shoreline. Regulatory restricts apply for vegetation removal in certain areas (wetland habitat) and placement of fill within the regulatory floodplain and the bed of the lake. You should always consult with the conservation authority regarding any work in the water and general vicinity of the shoreline. Depending on location, natural features and the extent/type of work, approval may be required, and restricts may apply. You may also require approval from other applicable agencies such as the Ministry of Natural Resource and Forestry and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Is a permit required for a storage shed near the shoreline?

A permit is needed for a storage shed near a shoreline if:

  • the structure is 10 square metres or greater in size
  • it is an addition to an existing structure (totalling 10 sq. m or more in size)
  • NOTE: any building or structure (other than marine facilities) that need permission (permit) from Cataraqui Conservation must meet the applicable requirements for upland development including setbacks from the natural hazard (e.g. flooding, erosion, dynamic beach hazard) or wetland and floodproofing measures.

Plan Review Questions:

Why is Cataraqui Conservation looking at my planning application?

Cataraqui Conservation reviews planning applications for one or both of the following reasons:

  • Cataraqui Conservation has been given delegated authority by the Province to review Planning Act applications for issues related to natural hazards (e.g. flooding and erosion hazards).
  • Cataraqui Conservation has service agreements with municipalities in their jurisdiction to provide comments on Planning Act applications that have a component related to natural heritage (e.g., wetlands, woodlands), water quality and water quantity (e.g. stormwater management).

How is Cataraqui Conservation informed about a planning application?

Municipalities within Cataraqui Conservation’s jurisdiction will determine if a planning application needs to be circulated to Cataraqui Conservation staff when the application is received. Often, staff will attend pre-application meetings to discuss development proposals along with municipal staff and other agencies.

Are there fees, what are they, and why does Cataraqui Conservation charge them?

Yes, there are fees payable to Cataraqui Conservation for the review of planning applications. These are separate and in addition to any fees charged by the municipality and/or county. The Cataraqui Conservation plan review fee schedule can be found under the “Fee” link to the right. Fees are charged on a cost-recovery basis (staff time to review the application, site inspections, input from technical staff, attendance at applicable meetings, etc.).

Fees can be paid over the phone, using a credit card, in person (credit, debit or cheque) or through the mail (cheque).

Is Cataraqui Conservation approving my planning application?

No, Cataraqui Conservation provides environmental input to the relevant approval authority with respect to your application. The final decision rests with the applicable planning approval authority (e.g. municipal council, Committee of Adjustment, Planning Committee, County Council, etc.).

When does Cataraqui Conservation comment?

When municipalities assess that a planning application falls into an area of interest base on screening criteria set out by the Conservation Authority, the planning application is circulated to Cataraqui Conservation staff for review and comment.

What does Cataraqui Conservation base its comments on?

Comments are based on our area of expertise (e.g. natural hazards, natural heritage) in relation to provincial and municipal legislation and policies. These include but are not limited to:

  • The Ontario Provincial Policy Statement
  • Municipal planning documents (e.g. Official Plan, Zoning By-law)
  • Cataraqui Conservation Environmental Planning Policy, which cover matters often beyond the scope of municipal policies but ensures consistency across municipalities
  • Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act (Ontario Regulation 148/06) and Cataraqui Conservation’s Guidelines for Implementing Ontario Regulation 148/06
  • Other applicable studies and reports completed within the Cataraqui Region (e.g. Central Cataraqui Region Natural Heritage Study, etc.)

Can Cataraqui Conservation require more information or specialized reports?

Yes. Staff may request additional site-specific information to inform their review of a planning application. Examples of additional information or reports that may be required include: an environmental impact study, natural hazard study or a geo-technical report. Cataraqui Conservation maintains a list of qualified professionals that can undertake these studies.

Does Cataraqui Conservation become involved in Local Planning Appeal Tribunal hearings?

Yes, Cataraqui Conservation can become involved in a hearing in one of two ways:

  • to appeal a decision of the approval authority, or
  • to provide evidence upon request from the applicant, the appellant, and/or the approval authority.