Development Information

Waterpower Development Stages


Step 1: Site Access

Access to Provincial Crown Land

For waterpower projects located in whole or in part on provincial Crown land the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is the first point of contact. For up-to-date resources on this topic, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s information pages:
Managing Crown Land for Renewable Energy: Policies and Procedures
Managing Crown Land for Renewable Energy: Additional Crown Land Management Information and Resources

Private Land

In most instances in Ontario, the development of a waterpower project involves access to Crown land. Proponents of a waterpower project are encouraged to perform their due diligence by consulting all relevant documents before pursuing with a development that does not include access to Crown land in some manner. Ownership of the bed and banks of the river can be established by consulting the deed of your property and requires additional real estate and legal expertise. The Ontario Beds of Navigable Waters Act outlines the conditions under which ownership of the Bed of an Ontario river may have been granted. All proponents must also consider the interests of riparian owners, backshore owners, and other related interests that may be impacted by a proposed development.

Federal Land

Proponents should consult the Dominion Waterpower Act and Dominion Waterpower Regulations for waterpower projects with Federal land components. Proponents are advised to contact the federal agency with jurisdiction of their proposed development for the most up-to-date information on federal policies and procedures as they relate to waterpower development. In particular, Parks Canada is responsible for the management of Ontario’s historic canals (Trent-Severn, Rideau) and waterpower development thereon.


Step 2: Environmental Assessment


Waterpower projects in Ontario that have a nameplate capacity that is less than 200 MW are planned using the OWA Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects. Projects greater than or equal to 200 MW are required to develop an individual environmental assessment. This includes new waterpower facilities as well as modifications (eg. upgrades, expansions, redevelopments, and retrofits) to existing waterpower projects or infrastructure that would result in an increase in nameplate capacity of 25% or more.
The Class EA for Waterpower Projects provides a single document and process for planning the development of a waterpower project. This process enables the proponent to identify potential effects to the environment and public, agency, and Aboriginal concerns, along with the preferred means of addressing them.

The Ontario Waterpower Association, as the proponent of the Class EA, has a key role in the development and ongoing implementation of the Class EA for Waterpower Projects. The development of Best Management Practices, coordination with agencies and proponents and annual reporting requirements are just some of the activities that the Ontario Waterpower Association undertakes in direct support of the Class EA. For futher information on the Class EA process for Waterpower Projects, please access the Class EA for Waterpower Projects section of the OWA website.

For projects on Federal land (eg. Parks Canada), the proponent is advised to contact the Director of Waterpower with the Parks Canada Agency. Note that projects not on Parks Canada land (eg. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, National Defence, etc) should contact the appropriate agency. Proponents are encouraged to also review the “Guide to the Parks Canada Environmental Impact Analysis Process under CEAA 2012” for projects less than 200 MW.


Step 3: Permitting


Permitting and approvals processes typically follow the Class EA for Waterpower Projects. Recognizing the large number of potential permits that may be required throughout the course of developing a waterpower facility, the following pages outline parent legislation and includes regulations and permits that are commonly applied during this phase of waterpower development. As additional policy guidance and supporting documents are developed they will be added to the following sections. Permitting is a commonly used term but in this instance can be expanded to include not only permits but approvals, licenses, or authorizations to a proponent to conduct an activity outlined in legislation or regulation. For ease of reference the legislative requirements and processes have been sorted by jurisdiction:


Federal Legislation, Regulations, and Permits (PDF Chart)


Provincial Legislation, Regulations, and Permits (PDF Chart)


Step 4: Construction


The construction of a waterpower facility follows the completion of the permitting requirements outlined in the permitting phase. It also marks the point in which Plans and Specifications Approval under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act will be completed and a short-term crown lease obtained for the construction period. Many of these permits and their implications will have implications during the construction phase of a project. The Ontario Waterpower Association has developed the Best Management Practices (BMP) Guide for the Mitigation of the Impacts of Waterpower Facility Construction to assist proponents in meeting their permitting requirements and provide the best available information to support mitigating the impacts of waterpower facility construction. The activity specific BMPs range from dam construction to vegetation clearing to in-water works and have been designed in a manner such that they can be easily incorporated into project tender documents. This BMP Guide is intended to be used by environmental planners, biologists, engineers and contractors in their day-to-day decision making, planning and design activities associated with waterpower construction.

As a project moves from construction to commissioning on Provincial crown land, the proponent will be required to complete a land survey for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, obtain a waterpower lease agreement with the Province of Ontario and connect to the electricity grid after satisfying distribution and transmission system requirements.