Jurisdiction Over Watercourses

Res #: 17-05A
Number: 17
Year: 2005
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Environment

Resolution No. 17-05A

WHEREAS, there is conflicting jurisdiction between the Provincial Department of Environment and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and

WHEREAS, this conflicting jurisdiction between the Provincial and Federal Departments is making construction of municipal roads extremely difficult and in many cases extremely expensive; and

WHEREAS, in many of the watercourses in this province fish do not exist, in fact, many of these watercourses see water only in the spring thaw or the occasional heavy rain;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans be removed from the Province of Saskatchewan and that all approvals for road construction on, over or near waterways in the Province of Saskatchewan be under the sole jurisdiction of the province.

Response from Honourable David Forbes, Minister of Environment:

The legal responsibility for fish habitat protection has always rested with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO); while responsibility for water and the aquatic environment rests with the province. Most smaller scale work in non-fish bearing waters are reviewed and enforces solely at the provincial level. Saskatchewan Environment's principal goal in issuing permits is to ensure that all aquatic habitat values in Saskatchewan are protected. In Canada, DFO has legal jurisdiction for fish habitat.

For a number of years, most of the enforcement responsibilities were informally delegated to inland provinces; however, over the last few years, DFO has reassumed total responsibilities for enforcement of fish habitat and navigable waters protection. DFO has approximately 25 staff in Saskatchewan and has been undertaking the review of works such as culvert construction, dam emplacement, etc. for several years. Both Saskatchewan Environment and DFO are working cooperatively to minimize jurisdictional overlap and to review any works subject to dual jurisdiction in an integrated, cost effective, and timely fashion.

Both departments continue to ensure that the re-assumption of enforcement duties by DFO is as seamless and coherent a transaction as possible. Saskatchewan Environment and DFO are working to develop a referrals process which will direct any particular project to the "appropriate" review agency. For instance, DFO has recently tables a set of Operational Statements for common activities which reduce the need for review and approval. These have been developed with the province and are similar to the province's exemption rules.