OTTAWA, Oct. 18, 2012 /CNW/ - The Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, today announced the introduction of amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Act allows for the building of bridges and other works that might interfere with navigation.
From the day it was enacted in 1882, the intent of the Navigable Waters Protection Act has been the safe and efficient movement of marine traffic.
The law ensures that boats and bridges can co-exist by regulating the extent to which bridges and shoreline construction can get in the way of ship and boat traffic. For example, without approval under the Act, a court could order a local council to remove a bridge if it was seen to be blocking navigation.
To allow for important infrastructure to be built on waterways, the Act provides a process that allows it to be built lawfully. However, the current Act requires that every project on a waterway in Canada receive the approval of the federal government, which creates significant delays and unnecessary red tape for cities and communities across Canada.
"For years, provincial, territorial and municipal governments have asked us to make it easier for communities to build important infrastructure like roads, bridges and wharfs that create jobs," said Minister Lebel. "The new Navigation Protection Act will cut through the red tape that slows down bridge work and respect navigation rights to keep Canadians moving."
The proposed amendments will:
- change the name of this law to the Navigation Protection Act to reflect its historic intent;
- clearly list the major waterways for which regulatory approval is required prior to the placement or construction of a works;
- allow proponents of works in unlisted waters to opt-in and seek approval of their proposed work to give them additional legal certainty by allowing them to choose; and
- expand the list of low risk works (like minor repairs on bridges) that can be pre-approved because they pose very little impact on safe navigation.
"The current Act has created a bureaucratic black hole holding up simple projects like municipal infrastructure and small recreational docks that do not actually interfere with navigation," stated Minister Lebel. "Our government has been clear that it is focused on jobs, growth and prosperity. Under our plan, small projects, with minor or no impact on navigation, could proceed without pages and pages of paperwork, allowing us to focus on projects that impact the Canadian economy."
Transport Canada consulted over the summer with the provinces and territories before introducing these amendments today before Parliament. Technical briefings will be held through the fall with industry and Aboriginal groups, and other interested parties.
Navigation Protection Act
The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) is one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation, dating from 1882 at a time when our waterways were Canada's primary transportation routes. Originally called An Act respecting Bridges Over Navigable Waters Constructed Under the Authority of Provincial Acts its main purpose was then, and is still, to make legal the construction of works such as bridges and docks in waterways that might otherwise violate the common law right of navigation.
Over time however, the scope and application of the Act has significantly expanded due to many factors such as amendments, judicial decisions and changes in operational practices of mariners. The Act now applies to all waters in Canada that can float a canoe including some brooks and streams that are only full for a few weeks during the spring runoff and other waters that are not normally navigated..
For example, the City of Moncton applied to build a culvert under highway in Fox Creek, which is so small as to practically non usable. The NWPA approval was delayed by 8 months and resulted in extra costs to the City of Moncton.
A transmission line built by Hydro Quebec for Sarcelle-Eastmain-1 took 13 months to be approved despite the fact that the design had already met the CSA standards for transmission line construction over navigable waters.
Lake Wabamum, near Edmonton has an oval shape that makes it easy for cottagers to build docks and boathouses along its edge without impacting navigation. Transport Canada was still obliged to process roughly 80 applications on this lake over three years.
These pointless assessments waste time and money while creating a backlog that slows assessments in major waterways where commercial navigation is a real issue.
Reforms are needed to cut through red tape.
The most recent amendments were passed in 2009, and led to the implementation of the Minor Works and Waters (NWPA) Order. The Order enables low risk works that meet certain criteria to be pre-approved under the Act.
New proposed amendments to the Act not only build on the 2009 improvements, but seize the opportunity to create a modern, robust, and flexible legislative scheme that can effectively respond to current and future needs of Canadians. Ultimately, these amendments will better facilitate economic growth, and more effectively support the efficient movement of marine traffic in the context of infrastructure developments that impact navigation.
This initiative is in line with the Government of Canada's commitment to returning to balanced budgets, streamlining the regulatory process, eliminating red tape and encouraging long-term economic growth and job creation.
From an environmental perspective, our waters will continue to be protected through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Fisheries Act.
Proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act establish an administrative monetary penalty scheme. Under this scheme the maximum penalty for violation is $5,000 in the case of an individual, and $40,000 in any other case.
Under the proposed amendments, non-compliance with certain provisions may constitute an offence under the Act. Persons found guilty of committing an offence may be liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not more than six months, or to a fine of not more than $50,000, or both.
SOURCE: Transport Canada
For further information:
Office of the Honourable Denis Lebel
Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities,
and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of
Canada for the Regions of Quebec
Transport Canada, Ottawa
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