Municipal Affairs and Environment

Frequently Asked Questions - Environmental Permits

  1. What is a body of water?
  2. What is an alteration of a body of water?
  3. What types of projects affect bodies of water?
  4. Who is affected by watercourse alterations?
  5. What must I do if I plan to a alter of a body of water?
  6. How do I get approval for my project?
  7. What happens to my application?
  8. Do I need to contact other agencies?
  9. What is a Crown Land Reserve?
  10. What must I do after the project is approved?
  11. How do I find out about application fees?

1. What is a body of water?

A "body of water" means any surface or subterranean source of fresh or salt water. This includes all ponds, lakes, marshes, wetlands and water above the bed of the sea that is within the jurisdiction of the province. It also includes all flowing or standing water in rivers, streams, brooks, creeks, springs, and other watercourses. It does not matter if the source usually contains water or not, for instance, floodplains are included in the definition because the land may be occupied by water at some time.

^ Top of Page

2. What is an alteration of a body of water?

An alteration of a body of water is any undertaking which in some way changes the flow of water. This would include changing the direction of flow, altering the quantity of water, impoundment or displacement, or changing drainage characteristics. Alteration can also refer to changes in water quality by such acts as discharge of polluting substances, changing temperature or siltation..

^ Top of Page

3. What types of projects affect bodies of water?

Obvious types of projects which affect our water resource are construction of dams and reservoirs, diverting a channel or infilling a pond. However, there are many other projects which may impact a watercourse or body but the effect may not be so obvious. These include installation of bridges and culverts, removal of material from the banks, laying a pipe under a stream, constructing buildings on a floodplain, building wharves, or numerous other types of construction works. Other activities can cause erosion, pollution, siltation or other environmental disturbances simply because of activity in or near water bodies. These activities include fording (that is driving vehicles through streams), stream cleanups or other construction within 15 metres of a body of water.

The consumptive use of water is also an alteration. Examples would be a pipe or channel intake constructed to draw water for a water supply, swimming pools or fire reservoirs. Finally, some projects may affect water in a very subtle way. For instance, the development of a piece of land may alter drainage patterns or may change the quantity of runoff because the imperviousness of the land is altered. Often, developed land contributes to greater storm runoff the receiving bodies of water may not have the capacity cope with these increases without causing flooding.

^ Top of Page

4. Who is affected by watercourse alterations?

Watercourse alterations may affect vegetation, wildlife and fish but most importantly, they may adversely affect people. Water pollution may adversely affect the drinking water supply of people downstream, recreational facilities and aesthetics. It may also destroy the source of livelihood for fishermen or tourist dependent entrepreneurs. Changes in flow regime may cause flooding downstream if the alteration involves increasing flows. infilling a marsh or bog may cause a permanent stream to dry up or it may lead to lowering of the water table with consequent loss of water in neighbours wells. Often, people unknowingly affect themselves when, for instance, their stream alterations cause costly erosion processes on their own property.

^ Top of Page

5. What must I do if I plan to alter a body of water?

Under Section 48 of the Water Resources Act you must have the written approval from the Minister of Environment before proceeding with any work which may affect a body of water. Such approval will be granted, provided there is sufficient justification for the project, and no adverse effects will result from the undertaking.

^ Top of Page

6. How do I get approval for my project?

Approval to alter a body of water must be requested in writing from the Department of Environment. Application forms are available to assist you in providing a complete description of the project. Plans of the proposal, maps and surveys are usually required but simple projects may be illustrated by a small sketch. You will be asked to describe the characteristics of the water body and how it will change. Your planned method and timing of construction should also be stated.

Guidelines are available to assist in the process and, in any case, departmental officials can answer any questions regarding the information needed in order to process your application.

^ Top of Page

7. What happens to my application?

All applications are carefully assessed for possible adverse environmental effects which may be created by the project. It is usually possible to carry out most projects in such a way that environmental impacts are kept to a minimum. Often alternatives are suggested which may make the job easier and also better from an environmental point of view. In any case, applicants are kept informed about their application. In some instances, it may be necessary to have an official of the Department visit the site. It may take 3 to 6 weeks before a Permit is mailed out.

^ Top of Page

8. Do I need to contact other agencies?

Most likely other agencies will be involved and may require an application from you. Some of these agencies are:

  • Municipal Council:
    • Projects within municipal boundaries
  • Department of Fisheries & Oceans, Habitat Management Division:
    • Fish habitat issues
  • Canadian Coast Guard:
    • Navigable waters, including as wharves, bridges and dredging.
  • Department of Government Services and Lands
    • Occupation of Crown Land or Crown Land reserve
    • Waste Materials Disposal

^ Top of Page

9. What is a Crown Land Reserve?

This is an area, usually 15 metres wide, along the high water mark of a body of water, both freshwater and marine, reserved for public access.

^ Top of Page

10. What must I do after the project is approved?

All approvals are issued with a set of terms and conditions. These must be strictly adhered to in order to prevent various possible environmental problems. You will be requested to report any problems you have during the project and to keep us informed as to significant changes in the project. You will also be requested to return a Completion Report to us stating that the project was carried out as approved.

^ Top of Page

11. How do I find out about application fees?

A fee schedule PDF (85 KB) will be provided with the application form PDF (94 KB). The non-refundable application fee must be paid before the application is processed.

^ Top of Page

Adobe® Acrobat® Reader software can be used for viewing PDF documents. Download Acrobat® Reader for free opens new window

Last Updated:
This page and all contents are copyright, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, all rights reserved.