The Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA) provides the Minister of Natural Resources (MNR) with the legislative authority to govern the design, construction, operation, maintenance and safety of dams in Ontario.
Proponents must obtain Location Approval under section (s.)14 of the LRIA prior to proceeding with construction of a new dam in order to identify potential impacts of the proposal to be considered during the design, construction and operation of the dam.
The LRIA also gives the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) the authority under s.23.1 to order proponents of new dams to prepare or amend a plan for the “operation and maintenance” of the dam. These plans are intended to ensure dams manage flows and levels in such a way as to balance social, environmental and economic interests.
The MNR has been working with dam owners and other stakeholders since 2006 to identify ways to modernize regulatory requirements for dams under the LRIA. The MNR is proposing to update requirements for Location Approval and Operating Plans for new dams, as well as changes to the amendment process and implementation of operating plans at existing dams.
This proposal is intended to implement Bill 55 LRIA legislative amendments (2012) and create a more modern, streamlined and financially sustainable planning and review process that effectively balances social, environmental and economic objectives associated with the construction and operation of dams in the province.
The Location Approval Technical Bulletin outlines the requirements proponents would need to satisfy to obtain Location Approval under the LRIA for new dams. The objective of Location Approval is to ensure that proponents have taken reasonable steps to identify strategies for mitigating negative impacts associated with the construction and operation of a dam at the proposed location.
As part of obtaining Location Approval, MNR would order proponents of new dams to prepare or amend a plan for the “operation and maintenance” of the dam as outlined in the Operating Plans Technical Bulletin which includes requirements for the preparation of such a plan. The objective of an Operating Plan is to provide clarity and certainty with respect to how water levels and flows will be managed in order to balance social, economic and environmental interests which may be affected by the operation of a dam or dams.
The Operating and Water Management Plan Implementation and Reporting Technical Bulletin outlines the proposed processes and requirements for:
• Establishing and maintaining a Standing Advisory Committee to support the implementation of an approved Operating or Water Management Plan;
• Monitoring and reporting on compliance with an approved Operating or Water Management Plan; and
• Completing a performance report of an approved Operating or Water Management Plan.
The Operating and Water Management Plan Amendments Technical Bulletin outlines the proposed process and requirements for amendments to ensure proponents apply due diligence when considering changes to their plan and that affected parties have been given sufficient opportunity to review and comment on the proposed changes prior to the changes taking affect. Any change to a plan approved under s. 23.1(1) of the LRIA requires an amendment. Amendments to approved plans can range from simple text corrections to changes requiring planning, public consultation and First Nations and Aboriginal community involvement.