Riparian & Aquatic Protection

What is a Riparian Area?

Riparian areas are the lands beside streams, lakes, wetlands, ditches, and oceans that link aquatic and terrestrial habitats. These areas are the most biologically diverse zones in the world and in Squamish.

A healthy riparian area acts as a buffer to changes in weather, temperature, flooding and pollution, and provides a home for fish, insects, birds and mammals. A resilient and vegetated riparian area is critical to the survival of fish in a developing landscape.

Wildlife Corridors

Riparian areas serve as wildlife corridors for mammals, such as bears and bob cats, and provide refuge (hiding places) to all sorts of small animals.

Woody debris

Woody debris (decaying logs) and leaf litter on the forest floor provide homes to amphibians and insects that serve as food for many bird species. 

Woody debris within stream channels provides refuge for juvenile salmon and shapes channel morphology.

Trees

Trees within riparian areas provide shade that keeps water cool for fish.

Standing dead trees contain insects that birds love to eat and offer great perches for raptors like the bald eagle.

Overhanging vegetation

Overhanging vegetation contributes to shade and protective cover for fish and drops leaves and insects into the water which become food for fish and provide nutrients to the stream. 

Root systems

The root systems from plants provide bank stability and prevent erosion. They also absorb water, thereby reducing the flashiness of storm events downstream. 

Riparian plants

Riparian plants, as well as microbes in the soil, filter and cleanse stormwater before it enters fish habitat. 

Riparian Assessment Areas

Within the District of Squamish, the Riparian Assessment Area includes all land within 30 metres of a stream, ravine, wetland, lake, ditch, estuary, and ocean coastline. These areas are governed by municipal Development Permit Area 1 (DPA 1) and the provincial Riparian Areas Protection Regulation.

When is a Permit or QEP Assessment Required?

The addition, removal or alteration of soil, vegetation or a building or other structure in or near a stream, wetland, lake, ditch or marine shoreline must be done in accordance with the applicable legislation, likely requires a permit or may be prohibited completely. This includes, for example, constructing a driveway, shed or dock, establishing a path or sitting area, or trampling vegetation within a riparian area. Yes, this means that you can not clear vegetation to set up a picnic table, stove or campfire within a riparian area! Under many situations, the District and Province require assessments to be conducted by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) prior to any works or disturbance.

Riparian Assessments

Within the District of Squamish, the Riparian Assessment Area includes all land within 30 metres of a stream, ravine, wetland, lake or ditch. These areas are governed by Development Permit Area 1 (DPA 1) and the provincial Riparian Areas Protection Regulation.
Riparian Assessments are conducted by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) and are used to establish and sometimes reduce the width of a setback from a stream, wetland or lake while providing adequate protection to the watercourse. The resultant setback is referred to as a Streamside Protection and Enhancement Areas (SPEA). Setback widths are based on several factors such as the width and gradient of the stream or the proximity of existing developments. These assessments are reviewed by municipal and provincial governments.

Ditch Classification & Assessments

As per Development Permit Area 1 (DPA 1), ditches within the District of Squamish have been classified and assigned setbacks based on their contributions to fish habitat, as detailed below. Development within 30 metres of a yellow, orange or red ditch requires a report prepared by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) that describes measures to protect the Streamside Protection and Enhancement Areas (SPEA or setback). These reports are reviewed by municipal government.

  Green (isolated) No setback required
  Yellow (minimally productive) 2 m setback
  Orange (moderately productive) 5 m setback
  Red (highly productive, may contain salmon) 10 m setback
Marine Shoreline Assessments

Within the District of Squamish, marine shorelines include areas extending 30 m seaward (foreshore) and 15 m upland (backshore) of marine influenced ecosystems, such as Howe Sound, Mamquam Blind Channel, Crescent Slough, Cattermole Slough and the estuary.

These areas are governed by Development Areas 1 (DPA 1) and the federal Fisheries Act. These two pieces of legislation contain guidelines and requirements for the protection of marine shorelines. Development along a marine shoreline requires a report prepared by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) that describes measures to protect the shoreline. Federal permits may also be required.  

Exemptions

There are several exemptions. For example, you can…

  • Maintain existing uses such as mowing your lawn or repairing your existing fence.
  • Reconstruct an existing building or perform renovations within an existing footprint.
  • Treat hazard trees in accordance with and under the supervision of a QEP. A hazard assessment report is to be prepared by a Certified Tree Risk Assessor and submitted to the District.
  • Remove invasive species in accordance with and under the supervision of a QEP. The District may require a map of invasive species and an Invasive Species Management Plan prepared by a QEP.

A complete list of exemptions can be found within the District’s Environmental Bylaws & Guidelines. The District of Squamish’s Environmental Staff can help determine if an exemption applies to your activity or development.

Environmental Bylaws page

Instream Works

Instream works include, for example, the installation, replacement or removal of a culvert, bridge, stormwater outfall or instream vegetation or any works below the top of bank of a ditch, stream, wetland, lake, or ocean. Instream works require an assessment prepared by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP), review under Development Permit Area 1 (DPA 1) and may require review by Provincial and/or Federal government.

Provincial and Federal Legislation

Your development or activity may also be governed by or require review under one of the following provincial or federal acts or regulations. Contact a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) for more information.


Have a question or concern?

Contact us: environment@squamish.ca, 604.815.5012 or use the online customer service form.

Disclaimer: This content is a summary of the District’s Environmental Bylaws & Guidelines. It is not legal advice and does not provide an interpretation of the law. In the event of any conflict or difference between this webpage and the bylaws or guidelines, the bylaws or guidelines are correct and legal and must be followed.