Alberta Wetland Policy: Overview and Update

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Information about Alberta Wetland Policy: Overview and Update

Published on February 19, 2014

Author: IEUO



Written by Andy Ridge, Executive Director, Water Policy, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

Alberta Wetland Policy Overview and Update Environment and Sustainable Resource Development February 14, 2014

Outline • New Policy Context • The Alberta Wetland Policy – Goal & Outcomes – Relative Wetland Value – The Mitigation System – Practical Outline • Implementation

New Policy Context • Commitment for delivery of a provincial-scale wetland policy (Water for Life Strategy, 2003). • Context and direction set under the Land Use Framework. • Expectations for an integrated, comprehensive, consistent approach to wetland management • Need for a balanced and informed approach to wetland management • Effective from the date of implementation

Stakeholder Engagement • Alberta Water Council recommendations for a new provincial wetland policy (2008). • “Wetlands – Policy Intent” (2010) – Strategic policy document, based on Water Council Recommendations. – Minister’s Roundtable in Calgary – General agreement on policy direction. Expressed need for clarity on: • Relative Wetland Value • Wetland Mitigation System • Relative Wetland Value Working Group (May – July, 2011) – ~20 external stakeholder organizations – Principles and criteria to guide development of a relative wetland value assessment system. • Mitigation Working Group (September – November, 2012) – Principles and criteria to aid development of the wetland mitigation system.

Alberta Wetland Policy • Policy Goal: – To conserve, restore, protect, and manage Alberta’s wetlands to sustain the benefits they provide to the environment, society, and the economy. • Policy Outcomes: 1. Wetlands of the highest value are protected for the long-term benefit of all Albertans. 2. Wetlands and their benefits are conserved and restored in areas where losses have been high. 3. Wetlands are managed by avoiding and minimizing negative impacts, and, where necessary, replacing lost wetland value. 4. Wetland management considers regional context.

Relative Wetland Value • Alberta’s wetlands are highly diverse in form, function, use, and distribution across the province – they are not all of equal value. • Relative wetland value (functions + benefits) will be used to inform wetland management. • Wetland functions: – Biodiversity, Water Quality Improvement, Flood Mitigation • Wetland benefits: – Education, recreation, cultural significance • Relative wetland abundance will be used to inform the value assessment: – In areas of low abundance and high historic loss, relative value of individual wetlands may be somewhat higher. – In areas of high abundance and low historic loss, some degree of managed loss may be sustainable. Relative value may be somewhat lower.

Mitigation System Avoid Minimize Replace Avoidance – The preferred response is to avoid impacts on wetlands. Minimization – Where avoidance is not possible, proponents will be expected to minimize impacts on wetlands. Replacement – As a last resort, and where avoidance and minimization efforts are not feasible or prove ineffective, wetland replacement will be required.

The Replacement System • Replacement will be enabled in one of two ways: 1. In lieu fee payment: • Proponent pays a replacement fee to a coordinating body. • Funds are allocated based on defined priorities, including restorative and non-restorative measures. • Proponent is relieved of liability. 2. Permittee-responsible compensation: • Proponent assumes responsibility for an agreed/approved replacement program. • Replacement options incorporate a range of restorative and non-restorative measures (priority is restoration).

Replacement Ratios The Wetland Replacement Matrix Value of Replacement Wetland Value of Lost Wetland D C B A A 8:1 4:1 2:1 1:1 B 4:1 2:1 1:1 0.5:1 C 2:1 1:1 0.5:1 0.25:1 D 1:1 0.5:1 0.25:1 0.125:1 *Ratios are expressed as hectares of wetland

Process Outline Regional Plans Development - Site Assessment Tool (determine value) - Avoid / Minimize Residual Impact Offset Replacement Fund “Credit Market” Restoration Agents Project Developers

Areas for Implementation (1) • Technical/Knowledge Systems – – – – Relative Wetland Value Assessment (tools and maps) GIS layers (value, restored/conserved, drained) Databases, Web Portal, + Systems Refresh Guidelines, criteria, BMPs, Codes of Practice • Governance/Economics – Accountabilities, relationships (industry, municipalities, province, mitigation agents) – Financial systems, banking and offset programs – Certification system for mitigation agents and wetland assessors

Areas for Implementation (2) • Regulatory Systems – Regulatory processes: • Guidelines, criteria, and standards to guide decision-making, development activities, and management actions – Approvals system and decision framework – Compliance and enforcement mechanisms • Education and Outreach – Education plan, establishment of priorities – Partnerships and outreach networks (e.g., North American Waterfowl Management Plan) – Educational programs and materials

Next Steps • Continued development of key operational components • Stakeholder engagement: – Targeted engagement on sector-specific aspects of policy development, as needed (Spring 2014 – Summer 2015). • E.g., alignment/integration with Operating Ground Rules – Broader stakeholder engagement (existing working group) to facilitate ongoing communication on policy direction (Spring 2014 – Summer 2015) – Outreach sessions (Summer 2014, Summer 2015) to inform affected stakeholders on operational processes prior to policy implementation • Policy Implementation: – White Area, August 2014; Green Area, August 2015

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