By Eden Northcott, Aquality Environmental Consulting Ltd.
Wetlands are complex and so are the regulations associated with them. If you have any questions, concerns, or want to develop/remove wetlands on your property, remember to always consult a qualified wetland professional.
Wetlands perform important ecological functions that require years of study to understand and thus must be handled with care and diligence. With the implementation of the Alberta Wetland Policy (2013), qualified professionals must take part in any decisions regarding any Alberta water resource.
Alberta has Professional Regulatory Organizations that self-regulate guided by provincial legislation and regulations. These organizations host wetland professionals in Alberta. They have the legal responsibility to ensure that professional members only practice in the fields or areas of interest where they have competence. These organizations have the statutory authority in Alberta to regulate wetland work under the Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta (2017).
We call individuals with the qualifications to conduct wetland work in Alberta an authenticating professional. For a wetland professional to authenticate wetland documents under the Alberta Wetland Policy, they must have a total of five years of professional experience, with a minimum of three years of professional wetland experience. They must demonstrate cumulative expert knowledge in vegetation, soils, fish and wildlife, landscape, water resources, and environmental design.
Only authenticating professionals can sign-off on important wetland documents such as a Wetland Assessment and Impart Report (WAIR). It is imperative that an authenticating professional recognize the act of applying his or her signature and/or seal conveys reliability to regulators and the public.
In the authentication of professional documents, professional members convey that they prepared or directly supervised the work for the documentation. Further, that they meet the education, competency, and professional experience requirements in the Professional Responsibilities in Completion and Assurance of Wetland Science, Design and Engineering Work in Alberta (2017).
They must have competency of legislation, regulation, and guidelines applicable to the Alberta Wetland Policy and function under the standards, guidelines, ethics, and terms of the professional organization. An authenticating professional in the realm of wetland work must understand that regulators, other professional members, and the public rely upon their work. In the field of wetland science, design, and/or engineering, they must improve their skill through training, sharing knowledge, and keeping up to date with respect to technical and regulatory updates.
Professional members providing wetland services refer to their own self-regulating organizations' codes of ethics to ensure they use their skills in accordance with professional standards. The rules of professional conduct serve not only as a guide to professional members, but also as a source of assurance to the public.
Wetlands are the most challenging and complicated landforms to understand. In Alberta, there is a rich diversity of wetlands with some solely unique to the prairie landscape such as prairie potholes. Mineral wetlands such as marshes, swamps and shallow open water are found primarily in the southern part of Alberta while fens and bogs are mostly found in the northern portion of the province.
The Alberta Water Act (2000) guides water management in Alberta with a focus on planning, use, and enforcement. Its objective is to promote the conservation and management of water through governing the diversion, allocation and wise use of water while recognizing the need for economic growth and flexible management. The Act regulates activities in and around surface water and ground water. An activity that affects the land or vegetation within or around a water body requires an authorization issued by Alberta Environment and Parks via a Water Act approval. This includes any inadvertent effect on the location, quality, or quantity of water.
Considering the cost of noncompliance, it is always better to start with a professional assessment.
Alberta Environment and Parks. (2017). Professional practice standard: professional responsibilities in completion and assurance of wetland science, design and engineering work in Alberta. Retrieved March 12, 2021
Alberta Environment and Parks. (2000). Water Act. Retrieved on March 16, 2021
Alberta Society of Professional Biologists. (n.d.). What is a Professional Biologist? Retrieved March 12, 2021
Alberta Society of Professional Biologists. (n.d.). What it means for Membership in a Self Regulating Profession. Retrieved March 12, 2021.