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Riparian Areas Regulation
Riparian areas are the areas bordering on streams, lakes, and wetlands that link water to land. The blend of streambed, water, trees, shrubs and grasses directly influences and provides fish habitat. Protecting this riparian fish habitat, while facilitating urban development that exhibits high standards of environmental stewardship, is a priority for the Government of British Columbia. Good quality streamside habitat is essential for ensuring healthy fish populations.
The Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR), enacted under Section 12 of the Fish Protection Act in July 2004, calls on local governments to protect riparian areas during residential, commercial, and industrial development by ensuring that proposed activities are subject to a science based assessment conducted by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP).
The purpose of the Regulation is to protect the features, functions and conditions that are vital in the natural maintenance of stream health and productivity. These vital features, functions and conditions are numerous and varied and include such things as:
The RAR model uses Qualified Environmental Professionals (QEPs), hired by land developers, to:
The assessment methods are attached to the Regulation as a schedule and are a key component of the regulatory regime for riparian protection that is clear and measurable, but does not rely exclusively on default setbacks. The assessment is based on the best available science with respect to riparian habitats.
The assessment methodology provides clear direction to QEPs on:
QEPs submitting RAR assessments must certify that they have the qualifications, experience and skills necessary to conduct the assessment. The assessment will form the content of notifications by development proponents to regulatory agencies. The Ministry of Environment provides local governments with confirmation that an assessment report has been received, enabling local governments to move forward in approving urban development without taking on the liability for reviewing and approving riparian setbacks.
To increase the accountability of the QEP and to permit compliance monitoring, the assessment methodology will yield outcomes that are measurable, repeatable, and independent of observer. The assessment methodology will also enable effectiveness monitoring to be undertaken to determine whether impacts from urban development on riparian habitats are being fully avoided when the assessment methodology is used correctly.