Alberta Wetland Policy Decoded: WAIF vs. WAIR
When it comes to applications for activities within wetlands in Alberta, there are two submission formats that you need to be aware of. They have several similarities but also are quite different.
A WAIF or Wetland Assessment and Impact Form is required for low risk activities such as those that only modify existing activities, have minimal permanent impacts or will result in short-term or temporary impacts to a wetland. You will be required to submit your shapefiles and spreadsheet of information in order to obtain an ABWRET-D (that is Alberta Wetland Rapid Evaluation Tool-Desktop) wetland value prior to submitting the WAIF. The form includes brief instructions, 2 pages of information that needs to be populated and details clarifying which activities are eligible for a WAIF. The form also spells out some activities that do not require a WAIF or a WAIR. Though it is a short form, the description of impacts and mitigation may be lengthy depending on the activity. However, since the WAIF is used for low impact activities the approval times are faster. Recently the approval has been expedited with a turnaround time of less than a day with follow up audits of information. A recent change has been made so that an ABWRET-D value is not required for Code of Practices (COP), but a WAIF will still be required.
A WAIR or Wetland Assessment and Impact Report is required for activities that aren’t eligible for a WAIF (see the last two pages of the WAIF) which includes new construction and activities that will result in permanent impacts to a wetland. Like the WAIF you will need to submit your spreadsheet and shapefile to obtain an ABWRET-D value prior to submission (which typically has a 7d turnaround time). However, a WAIR is a much more in-depth deliverable which will take much more effort to prepare all of the components. The WAIR requires field data (no more than 3 yrs old at the time of submission), and ABWRET-A will be required for areas where there will be permanent impacts. The required information for a WAIR report can be found in the Alberta Wetland Assessment and Impact Report Directive. Due to the greater intensity of impacts more mitigation information is required and the approval times are much longer. So be sure to apply early.
Both the WAIF and WAIR must be prepared by or prepared under the supervision/review of a wetland authenticating professional.
To help you remember which is which here’s a little mnemonic :
If project is low risk you can get a-WAIF (away) with only submitting a WAIF but as long as you are a-WAIR (aware) that a WAIR will be required for most permanent impacts.
Want to learn more about Alberta’s Wetland Policy? Register for our Wetland Policy Basics Course