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Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change

Wetland Alteration Approval

Who Needs This Approval?

Natural wetlands are important to the health and prosperity of our province. So, in 2011, government created a new policy to help conserve wetlands. More information on this Wetland Conservation Policy can be found at

The Environment Act requires an approval for certain activities that impact wetlands. These activities are referred to as an alterations or use, which include, but are not limited to, infilling, excavating, draining or flooding of wetlands. For more information on the Wetland Alteration Approval process, you can also contact the nearest local NSECC field office for assistance with this process or download our Wetland alteration checklist document: Wetland Alteration Application Approval Process

What is a wetland?: Wetlands are land commonly referred to as marshes, swamps, fens, bogs and shallow water areas that are saturated with water long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes. Salt marshes are also wetlands.

Alteration to other tidal habitats such as lagoons, mud flats and tidal ponds do not require a Wetland Alteration Approval from NSECC. Please consult the Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans as there may be requirements for authorizations under their legislation.

Issuing Department / Agency:
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
Where can you get an applicationl and / or further information?
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change

Tel: 902-424-2547
Toll Free: 1-877-9ENVIRO (1-877-936-8476)
Fax: 902-424-0569

Office Location:
Barrington Tower
1894 Barrington St.
Suite 1800
Halifax, NS

Mailing Address:
PO Box 442
Halifax, NS B3J 2P8
  Regional and District Offices:
Application Forms & Process:

Section 1: Before You Submit an Application

The first step is to meet with your local Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) Inspector. You should come prepared with photographs of the site, a location description (and maps if available), and a basic description of your proposed project.

The Inspector will work with you to answer a few key questions:

  • Is there a wetland or watercourse here that might be impacted?
  • Would the activity be an alteration, such as filling, draining, flooding, or excavating?
  • Do you own the land or have the rights to do work in this location?
  • Is this a type of wetland or activity that does not require an approval?
  • Is this a "Wetland of Special Significance" that requires protection?

Once these questions are answered, you need to estimate how big an impact your project might have. This may require a site visit by the Inspector.

Note that if the expected impact to wetlands is larger than 2 hectares, your project will be referred to the Environmental Assessment Process (see below).

Section 2: Wetland Approval Application

Based on the size of your project impact, the Inspector will direct you to complete a Simplified or Standard Application.

  • Simplified Application (Alterations smaller than 0.5 hectares to a single wetland)
  • Standard Application (Alterations between 0.5 and 2.0 hectares and any alteration that affects more than one wetland)

For more information about Wetlands or to obtain a step by step guide to the Wetlands Alteration Approval Process, download our Wetland alteration checklist document: Wetland Alteration Application Approval Process. This document also outlines a list of submission requirements, necessary for both the Simplified Application and Standard Application processes.

A copy of the application form for this Approval can be obtained from any Regional or District Office of NSECC or from the Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change website at

Once an application has been accepted as complete, the application form and supporting documentation undergo a review and evaluation. It may be necessary to seek additional information from the applicant during the review process.

Waiting Period:

60 business days or less

Provided that all the items that must accompany the application has been received and accepted.

Note that if the Environmental Assessment process is triggered, the Wetland Approval process will not begin until the Environmental Assessment process is completed. See Related Requirements below for more information.

Expiry & Renewal:
This Approval is valid until the expiry date included on the Approval to a maximum of 10 years. It can be renewed. Note, it is the responsibility of the Approval holder to contact the Department before it expires; NO NOTICE of renewal will be sent out by the Department.
Price:  (No tax is charged)


Note that if the Environmental Assessment Process is triggered there will be additional costs associated with the Environmental Assessment Approval process. See Related Requirements below.

Related Requirements:

There maybe other federal, provincial or municipal approvals required, for example:

  1. Navigable Water Protection Act, 1985, Transport Canada;
  2. Use of Crown Lands; See N.S. Department of Natural Resources
  3. Building permit, local Municipality.

If the planned alteration will disrupt 2 hectares or more of a wetland, an Environmental Assessment may be required. When an Environmental Assessment is required for an alteration, applicants must obtain this approval before seeking any other approvals from NSECC.

In cases where the environmental assessment process could be triggered, the Environmental Assessment Branch of NSECC will determine the area of disruption in consultation with the Science and Compliance Divisions of NSECC and the Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources.

For further information about environmental assessments, contact:
Environmental Assessment Branch
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
Phone: 902-424-3230
Fax: 902-424-0501

Additional Information:
Legislative Authority: 
Environment Act, Statutes of Nova Scotia, 1994-95, Chapter 1,

Activities Designation Regulations, Approval and Notification Procedures Regulations, and Fees Regulations

Back to Nova Scotia Environment Index in the Nova Scotia Permits Directory

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