The provincial ag ministry has submitted a discussion paper outlining proposed changes to help streamline the building and maintenance of drainage systems
By Jackie Clark
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has posted a discussion paper asking for comment on proposed changes to the Drainage Act, R.S.O. 1990.
“Drainage is essential to agricultural productivity and enhancing the competitiveness of the sector since it improves crop productivity and can help reduce nutrient loss and soil erosion while helping with flood control,” OMAFRA said in a Jan. 31 statement to Farms.com.
“Changes to the Drainage Act are proposed that would, if passed, enable a streamlined process for drainage projects to meet the requirements of property owners, municipalities and a cross section of government agencies,” the discussion paper said.
The ministry is proposing three main changes:
- a streamlined Drainage Act process for minor improvements
- a simplified process to update an engineer’s report to document changes during construction
- ministerial authority to adopt technical protocols by reference in the regulation
“The intent of the new process would only be to change or reduce steps within the Drainage Act process for projects that meet the definition and criteria. Changes to the Drainage Act would not impact any of the existing requirements for environmental approvals and/or permits under other legislation,” the statement said.
The new regulations would outline what qualifies as a “minor improvement.”
“Minor improvements should have no impact on the flow of water on other properties. Examples include creating or widening a crossing, relocating a drain on an individual property or the addition of a feature with environmental benefits (e.g. a buffer or a water retention area),” the statement said.
The second change “proposed to ensure municipal engineer’s reports reflect ‘as built’ conditions of the drain. This means that, when building a drain, minor variations from the engineer’s report to address specific site conditions, for example, minor re-routing to avoid a very large rock, can be documented without starting the entire process over,” the statement explained.
Technical protocols referred to in the third proposed change “would be developed through collaboration with other agencies to ensure environmental protections are maintained.”
The existing technical protocol, the Drainage Act and Regulations Team (DART) protocol, was created in 2008 “to streamline approvals for municipal drain repair and maintenance projects that meet Conservation Authorities Act permitting requirements,” the discussion paper explained.
“The existing DART technical protocol includes detailed repair and maintenance procedures that restore the function of a drain while incorporating environmental protections. Adoption of a protocol by reference in a regulation would make it law,” the statement said.
Stakeholders from environmental groups, farm groups, and several provincial ministries were involved in the development of the DART protocol. “OMAFRA will include a range of interested parties to help develop additional protocols,” the statement said.
OMAFRA proposed these changes to the Drainage Act with hope that they will reduce costs and project delays for efficient drainage construction and modification while maintaining environmental protection.
Interested stakeholders can read the full discussion paper and submit comments here until Feb. 18.
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