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Protect Our Shorelines and Water Bodies

Understanding riparian areas and environmental reserves

Post Date:03/28/2019 8:59 AM

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Click here to read our Protect Our Shorelines and Water Bodies brochure.

What are riparian areas?

Riparian areas are where land and water meet. These are areas bordering lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands. Although they only represent a small part of Lac La Biche County’s landscape, they have a large impact on the environment.

When they are healthy and left in their natural state, riparian areas protect water quality and wildlife, control erosion and flooding, and more. Lac La Biche County’s Environmental Reserve Encroachment Policy, Land Use Bylaw and provincial regulations all contain guidelines for preserving these sensitive areas.

What do riparian areas have to do with me?

Lac La Biche County contains hundreds of water bodies. Protecting them is an important goal for our community because they are the source of our drinking water, home to many species of plants and animals, and a venue for countless recreational activities.

Residents who own waterfront property have a responsibility to maintain and protect natural shorelines. Many landowners may wish to make changes to the shoreline, like clearing vegetation or building retaining walls, but these activities have a negative impact on the environment. For this reason, the County creates environmental reserves to protect delicate riparian areas (see below).

Did you know:

  • Riparian areas provide food sources and critical habitat for birds, fish, shoreline plants and other wildlife. As much as 80 percent of Alberta’s wildlife needs riparian areas in some way to survive.
  • A healthy riparian area with plenty of native vegetation can strengthen the shoreline, preventing erosion and mitigating flooding. It can also hold back sand and soil, which helps to keep the water clean and clear.
  • Riparian areas play an important role in “filtering” what goes into nearby water bodies. Without healthy riparian areas, runoff has a much greater chance of carrying nutrients like fertilizers or septic waste into the water. This contributes to blue-green algae blooms during the summer months.

developingonlandWhat are Environmental Reserves?

When land is subdivided, Lac La Biche County may require a portion of it to be set aside as a municipal reserve or an environmental reserve. These lands are then owned by the County, and activities taking place on them are regulated by the Land Use Bylaw and Alberta’s Municipal Government Act.

Simply put, the point of an environmental reserve is to protect a nearby riparian area. As such, building on or changing the landscape of an environmental reserve in any way is prohibited. It is every landowner’s responsibility to be aware of rules and regulations (federal, provincial and municipal) that affect their property. Know where municipal reserves and environmental reserves are in relation to your property and make sure you understand what is and is not allowed on these lands, so you can do your part to protect our environment.

A healthy waterfront is essential to a healthy environment. To better protect our water bodies, the County is drafting a new Environmental Reserve Bylaw. Click here to view the draft Environmental Reserve Bylaw.

All residents will have an opportunity to share their comments, concerns and ideas in a series of public engagements later this spring.

For more information about riparian areas and their value to the environment, please call our Environmental Services department at (780) 623-6739.

For more information about environmental reserves and the draft Environmental Reserve Bylaw, please call our Planning & Development department at (780) 623-1747.

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