The Use Approval under Section 10 of the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) have caught many developers, site owners, and contractors off-guard in the past couple of years. Construction sites, mine sites, or other excavation sites where dewatering is needed, are required to have the Use Approval (formerly known as Short-Term Water Use Approval), which permits the diversion and use of groundwater from an aquifer for a maximum 24 months. First introduced in 2016 for construction dewatering purposes, it has been increasingly enforced by various municipalities as part of their permitting process.
The initial application submission is straight forward and only requires general / administrative information. Once the initial application has been received through FrontCounter BC, it is reviewed by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Additional information may be requested, such as habitat assessments, plans and designs for constructed works. Applications may then be referred to DFO and/or the Ecosystems Branch of the BC ENV. Other government agencies, affected landowners, licensees and riparian landowners may also be notified and given an opportunity to respond. First Nations in the area may also be contacted. Once comments from stakeholders are received and additional information is provided by the applicants, the application undergoes a technical review, where additional information and/or further study may be requested to support the application. Finally, a recommendation is made for the consideration of a Water Manager, who is authorized under legislation to grant the Use Approval for the planned work.
The problem? The time required to process this application often ranges from 5 to 12 months. And now, no matter the size of excavation, some municipalities have disallowed dewatering work to start or halted on-going excavation work below the water table, without this approval in place. Considering the lead time, it has caused quite the panic from developers and landowners trying to get the initial application submitted, even before much of the design work is finalized. What most do not realize, there are exemptions to this Use Approval requirement, depending on the site use and how the water is ultimately discharged.
Keystone Environmental can assist you in determining whether a Use Approval is required for the planned work. If a Use Approval is required for your site, we have the capability and resources to actively pursue this authorization on your behalf and engage the Ministry and the local municipality to ensure that project delays are minimized.