The Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen is a unique part of Canada with rolling grasslands, pockets of desert, spectacular lakes and towering forests. It is one of the reasons why people enjoy living here and it’s an important part of our quality of life. The environment is one of many considerations when planning communities.
Working Near or on Sensitive Land
The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys have some of the most endangered habitats in Canada and are home to large numbers of species at risk. For some species this is the only place in Canada where they are found.
Through its official community plans and zoning bylaws, the RDOS has many objectives and policies related to the natural environment. Sensitive land mapping and policies may guide staff or the Board to request environmental information at a rezoning stage to assist in making an informed decision on the application. These sensitive areas also can apply to the land around aquatic areas as many plants and animals other than fish use these areas.
Environmentally Sensitive or Natural Area Development Permits (ESDPs)
Using provincial mapping the RDOS has established Development Permits for sensitive areas in electoral area’s A, C, D and E. ESDP's are most commonly used at subdivision or development of commercial or industrial buildings. Environmentally sensitive and natural environment development permits are used to minimize the impact of development on the natural environment. They generally apply to areas and activities which are outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve but the details vary between electoral areas. These development permits are usually required prior to any disturbance of land or vegetation and it is best to contact the RDOS as early in your planning as possible.
Look under Layers, Base Information, Environmentally Sensitive Habitat.
Working Near Water
Water quality and quantity is important to many users in the RDOS and it is also essential to the survival of many species and ecosystems. One of the best ways to protect the water is to protect the riparian zone. The border between a watercourse and a “dry land” is called the riparian zone. It is the shoreline area where the plants and water influence each other.
Watercourse Development Permits (WDPs)
In the RDOS there are development permit areas adjacent to watercourses which have fish or are connected to watercourses with fish. In some cases, such as isolated wetlands, there may not be fisheries values for the site, but it may be very important for other plants and animals or as a recharge area for groundwater. As a result, some sites may be both environmentally sensitive and watercourse development permit areas or one or the other.
WDP areas are assessed based on the Provincial Riparian Areas Regulation and relate to commercial, industrial or residential development only. A property owner is responsible to secure the assistance of a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) to determine what the setback from the watercourse should be. QEP brochure link If the setback restricts your project there may be options to accommodate it on existing lots with the assistance of your QEP and further authorizations. The QEP will be responsible to file the report with the province of BC, monitor the project and report on the completion. Once the report is filed and approved, the property owner may apply for a WDP using the assessment report as the plan.
There are watercourse development permit areas in electoral areas A, C, D, E, F and H. The development permit applies to commercial, industrial or residential alteration of land within:
- 30 metres of a watercourse
- 30 metres of the top of bank of a ravine less than 60 metres wide or
- 10 metres of the top of bank of a ravine more than 60 metres wide
These development permits are usually required prior to any disturbance of land of vegetation and it is best to contact the RDOS as early in your planning as possible.
In areas B and G, the Provincial Riparian Areas Regulation still applies, although the RDOS does not have development permits. The regulation requires a property owner to have an assessment completed and filed online with the Ministry of Environment. Please contact the province and check our links page for more information.
RDOS watercourse mapping is based on provincial data and is not always accurate enough to for planning on a site level. Some watercourses do not show on the mapping and some show up that do not exist. It is the responsibility of the property owner to provide the RDOS with adequate information to determine the proximity of a development to a WDP area. Please contact the planning department for further information.
Look under Layers, Base Information, Watercourse Development Area.
There are many local, provincial and federal regulations for working in and around water and approval from several levels of government may be needed for some developments. It is best to contact all levels of government prior to work in those areas to find out the requirements and best management practices. Some RDOS considerations include but are not limited to flood plains, yard setbacks and septic location. Additional information is available through the links below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where do I find information on boat moorage, docks and launches?
A. Front Counter BC-Private Moorage, Okanagan Region Best Management Practices, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Operational Statement, Navigable Waters Protection Program
Q. RDOS mapping shows a watercourse on my property, but there isn’t one there, what do I do?
A. RDOS stream mapping is based on provincial mapping. The RDOS is conducting field work to update the mapping, but the regional district is large and it will take a great deal of time. RDOS staff will visit properties as part of the mapping project if there is an indication that a stream does not exist and if there is an application pending on the property. Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping (SHIM) is available through the RDOS.
Q. What is a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP)?
A. Please see our brochure on QEP's. Click here
Q. Can I still use my gardens in a watercourse development permit area?
A. Property owners can continue to use their properties as they always have, however any new activities may require a development permit. Please contact staff for more information.
Q. Can I do a demolition in a watercourse development permit area?
A. Yes, as long as there will be no soil or vegetation disturbance. Contact staff about the requirements for replacing the building.
Q. Who do I report potential environmental problems to?
A. Ministry of Environment Conservation Officers 1-800-663-9453
Report a Polluter or Poacher 1-877-952-7277
RDOS may be able to respond to written complaints that are within its jurisdiction. Contact staff for more information.