Water Security Agency

Aquatic Habitat Protection

The Aquatic Habitat Protection Program protects aquatic habitat from impacts that may arise from development in, or near, water.

The program preserves and maintains aquatic habitat at the productive level which existed prior to the development activities by preventing:

  • temporary and permanent habitat alteration;
  • increased soil erosion and sedimentation;
  • impacts of construction timing and development on aquatic organisms and Species at Risk;
  • discharge of chemicals, oil, gasoline and other contaminants into water; 

The program also protects vegetation and habitat in the water and on the banks. 

You must obtain an Aquatic Habitat Protection Permit BEFORE doing work in, or near, water. Water Security Agency issues these permits.

Please note the application review may take up to 45 business days depending on application volume. Please send your application well in advance of your project. You can view the application review process here.

Do I Need a Permit?

The laws governing development in, or near, water are set out in The Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010 and The Environmental Management and Protection (General) Regulations.

You will need an Aquatic Habitat Protection Permit:

  1. Before starting any work in the bed, bank, or boundary of a water body or watercourse.
  2. For any discharge with an adverse effect on water.

Adverse effect means impairment of, or damage to, the environment or harm to human health, caused by any chemical, physical, or biological alteration, or any combination of any chemical, physical, or biological alterations.

  • Bed: that portion of water body or watercourse covered by water – or that would be covered by water if flowing.
  • Bank: the rising ground bordering a water body that confines the water to the channel or bed.
  • Boundary: the end of the riparian zone (a minimum of five metres).
  • Riparian area: the transition zone between water and upland areas that borders streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. Riparian areas can perform unique ecosystem services like filtration and sediment trapping and groundwater recharge, contributing to clean, abundant water and wildlife habitat. 

Examples of Projects that need a Permit

For more information see the Fact Sheets in Resources below.

Types of work that require an Aquatic Habitat Protection Permit include, but are not limited to:

  • Road developments, like culvert and bridge installation, maintenance and removal, low-level crossings; ford crossings, and temporary crossings,
  • Shoreline stabilization, including retaining walls,
  • Recreational developments like permanent crib-docks, beaches, boat launches, boat houses, lake access trails, marinas, breakwaters, and boardwalks,
  • Riparian and aquatic vegetation removal,
  • Water conveyance projects like channel clearing, channelization, wetland infilling/drainage, existing drainage ditch maintenance, and construction of new ditches, 
  • Pumphouses, water intakes, waterline development and other water infrastructure, and,
  • Drainage projects and wetland infilling require a drainage approval. For more information, see our Agricultural Water Management Strategy

Accepted Environmental Protection Plans

WSA has developed accepted environmental protection plans (EPP) for certain activities around water. Each EPP outlines the activities that are allowed and the conditions that must be followed when undertaking those activities to minimize or avoid impacts to aquatic habitat and water quality. If your project falls within the eligibility requirements (Section 2) and you can meet the conditions (Section 3) of the EPP, you are authorized to proceed with your activity once you submit this completed notification form and pre-construction photos of your worksite to WSA. Contact us if you have questions about an EPP or if you need help determining whether your project is eligible.

The following accepted EPPs have been developed. Click the link to review the EPP and determine if you are eligible to use an EPP for your project.

Shoreline Stabilization

Standard AHPP

If an EPP does not apply to your proposed project, you are required to obtain an AHPP before starting your work. Send your completed application form and supporting information by email (preferred), mail, fax or in-person. Please note our email server is limited to 25MB per email. If your information exceeds that limit you could send multiple emails, or use a file transfer service (e.g., WeTransfer).

Email: for applications only

Industry Projects

The Ministry of Environment issues Aquatic Habitat Protection Permits to certain industries. 

If your project involves the following activities, please contact the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Centre at 1.800.567.4224 to obtain your permit:

  • Forest Industry
  • Industrial waste
  • Mining and mineral exploration
  • Oil and gas
  • Linear developments (telephone and power lines)
  • Road construction in a previously undeveloped right-of-way or where there is a new or expanded right-of-way

Activities that do not require a permit or EPP

  1. Work conducted on water bodies or watercourses wholly contained on private land owned by one individual and the watercourse(s) do(es) not flow into other surface water does not require a permit.
  2. Beaver dam removal by hand or machinery. See our Beaver Dam Removal Factsheet below for information to determine if your work meets the exemption.
  3. The placement of a floating or post/wheel dock that gets taken out by freeze up every year. See our Temporary Boat Docks/Boat Lifts Factsheet below for information to determine if your work meets the exemption.
  4. Using a hydraulic jet to clear floating vegetation, algae and debris from boat docks and lifts.
  5. Constructed irrigation canals.
  6. Public/community beach maintenance.
  7. Installation of fence posts and construction of fences.

How to Apply

  • Send your completed application form and supporting information by email (preferred), mail, fax, or in-person. 
  • Please note our email server is limited to 25MB per email. If your information exceeds that limit you could send multiple emails, or use a file transfer service (e.g. WeTransfer)

Email: for applications only

For inquiries, please contact the client service centre and you will be put in touch with the specialist for your area. 

Aquatic Habitat Protection
Water Security Agency
300 – 2365 Albert Street


Please Note: The application review may take up to 45 business days depending on application volume. Please send your application well in advance of your project. Incomplete applications may result in longer wait times. 

Your application must include maps and photographs of your project site and plans, sketches and/or drawings of the proposed work. See the Application Guide in Resources for more information about completing the application. 

Things to consider when planning your project:


Please contact WSA’s Client Services at 1.866.727.5420.

Resources and Fact Sheets

Application Form
Application Guide
Application Review Process 
Fact Sheets
Beach Creation and Beach Maintenance
Beaver Dam Removal
Docks and Boat Lifts – Private, Temporary or Seasonal
Shoreline Stabilization
Laws and Regulations
The Environmental Management and Protection Act (2010)
The Environmental Management and Protection (General) Regulations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada Projects Near Water