Regulation - LGIC

Proposed Updates to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System

Regulation Number(s):
Instrument Type:
Regulation - LGIC
Bill or Act:
More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022
Summary of Decision:
A decision was made on December 22, 2022 to proceed with the proposal as described.

Under Ontario's current policy framework, an evaluated wetland is a wetland that has been assessed according to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES). The OWES is the official procedure to:

1. determine the wetlands that are significant
2. determine the boundaries of significant wetlands

The OWES assesses wetlands under four categories: biological, social, hydrological, and special features. OWES defines a significant wetland as any evaluated wetland that scores 600 or more points in total, or that scores 200 or more points in either the biological component or the special features component.

The OWES consists of two manuals: the Southern OWES (used to evaluate wetlands located in Ecoregions 6 and 7) and the Northern OWES (used to evaluate wetlands located in Ecoregions 2, 3, 4, and 5). Coastal wetlands are also evaluated using these OWES manuals.

The OWES has been in place since 1983. Over the last decade in particular, we have heard practitioners voice concerns and recommendations for improvements to how Ontario's significant wetlands are assessed and identified.

Based on the input received from the public, businesses, environmental and conservation organizations, municipalities, and Indigenous peoples, we have made changes to the OWES as originally proposed. The changes made include and come into effect on January 1, 2023:

• the addition of new guidance related to re-evaluation of wetlands and updates to mapping of evaluated wetland boundaries
• changes made to better recognize the professional opinion of wetland evaluators and the role of local decision makers (e.g., municipalities)
• other housekeeping edits to ensure consistency with the above changes throughout the manual

Additionally, in response to comments received, we've made the following clarifications:
• the evaluation would be considered final once a trained evaluator attests that they have undertaken an evaluation in accordance with OWES
• require that evaluators send the final wetland boundary mapping and wetland status to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for upload to Land Information Ontario
• require evaluators to notify landowners that a wetland evaluation is being conducted on their property

Changes were made to both the OWES southern and northern manuals.
Analysis of Regulatory Impact:
The anticipated impacts of the policy proposal on business are neutral to positive. The proposed changes are intended to:

provide greater certainty and clarity related to how significant wetlands are assessed and identified

allow for further streamlining of development decisions by removing the requirement for the ministry to review and confirm wetland evaluation results

Through this posting, we welcome comments on anticipated benefits or costs to better help the ministry understand the real costs or cost savings associated with these proposed changes.
Further Information:
Proposal Number:
Posting Date:
October 25, 2022
Summary of Proposal:
Everyone in Ontario should be able to find a home that is right for them. But too many people are struggling with the rising cost of living and with finding housing that meets their family's needs.

Ontario's housing supply crisis is a problem which has been decades in the making. It will take both short-term strategies and long-term commitment from all levels of government, the private sector, and not-for-profits to drive change. Each entity will have to do their part to be part of the solution to this crisis.

Ontario needs more housing, and we need it now. That's why the Ontario government is taking bold and transformative action to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.

To support More Homes Built Faster: Ontario's Housing Supply Action Plan 2022-23, the government introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, which, if passed, would ensure that cities, towns, and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of all Ontarians.

These changes are providing a solid foundation to address Ontario's housing supply crisis over the long term and will be supplemented by continued action in the future.

See the Environmental Registry of Ontario notice for the complete details of the proposal.
Contact Address:
Effective Date:
January 1, 2023