Wetland Mitigation


The Government of Alberta recognizes the importance of wetland preservation to Albertans; however, it also recognizes the economic, political, and social pressures for ongoing development in the province, and that these pressures will at times be in conflict with the preservation of wetlands. To deal with these conflicting demands, the province developed a wetland mitigation hierarchy which outlines a series of mitigation options when an action is proposed that might cause the loss or degradation of a wetland. Proponents of a development near wetlands are required to evaluate the potential impact on the wetlands and take steps to minimize environmental damage. The Wetland Mitigation Directive, released as a part of the White Area implementation of the Wetland Policy, describes how to implement the mitigation hierarchy. 

In descending order of preference, the mitigation stages in the wetland mitigation hierarchy are:

AVOID

Avoidance is the  primary response and the highest priority for wetland mitigation. Proponents should avoid impacts to wetlands and must demonstrate evidence for avoidance including:

  • Options for relocating activity
  • Alternative activities considered
  • Modifications for proposed activity
  • Comparative analysis of alternative options 

MINIMIZE

Minimization is the second preference for wetland mitigation. A proponent may undertake minimization once they have demonstrated that avoiding impacts to the wetland is not possible. 

Proponents must demonstrate minimization of adverse effects has been achieved and that the relative value of the wetland has been retained. The proponent must also provide evidence for minimization, evidence include:

  • Alternative activities considered
  • Modifications for proposed activity considered
  • Comparative analysis of alternative options

REPLACE

Replacement for wetland impacts is the last option that a proponent should consider and may only be considered when permanent loss of a wetland will occur and the proponent has demonstrated that impacts cannot be avoided or minimized.

To determine replacement requirements proponents will be required to use the Wetland Replacement Matrix.  The matrix outlines wetland replacement ratio based on wetland values: 

here are 2 mechanisms a proponent may choose from when considering wetland replacement as an option for mitigation. They are:

  1. Wetland Offset Registry (not yet available)
  2. In-lieu fees. Proponents pay compensation or in lieu fees for wetland impacts based on the blue column in the Wetland Replacement Matrix. In lieu payments are paid to a designated Wetland Restoration Agent. 
  3. Permittee responsible replacement. The proponent can undertake their own wetland restoration/construction.

Government of Alberta. 2015. Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive. Edmonton, AB.