Beach Creation for Residential Use

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada Ontario Operational Statement

This Operational Statement applies only to beach creation projects adjacent to freshwater systems that involve a small waterfront recreation area located entirely above the ordinary high water mark. Although fish habitat occurs both below the water and within riparian areas (along the banks of the water body), it is the riparian habitat that is most sensitive to this type of beach development. Riparian vegetation directly contributes to fish habitat by providing shade, cover and areas for spawning and food production. It is important to design your beach to meet your needs while also protecting riparian areas.

The disturbance of shoreline areas can also result in sedimentation and erosion of beach material into the water body, which may harm other important habitat. Improper use of equipment or use of unsuitable building materials can introduce deleterious substances into the water.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for protecting fish and fish habitat across Canada. Under the Fisheries Act no one may carry out a work or undertaking that will cause the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat unless it has been authorized by DFO. By following the conditions and measures set out below you will be in compliance with subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act.

The purpose of this Operational Statement is to describe the conditions under which it is applicable to your project and the measures to incorporate into your project in order to avoid negative impacts to fish habitat. You may proceed with your beach creation project adjacent to freshwater lakes, rivers and streams without a DFO review when you meet the following conditions:

  •       you are not working within areas under Parks Canada's jurisdiction, including the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal system,
  •       the proposed beach, associated structures and materials are placed above the ordinary high water mark (HWM) (see definition below),
  •       the combined width for all existing and proposed shoreline improvements (docks, boathouses, beaches) is less than 25% of the property's riparian area width (shoreline frontage width), and
  •       you incorporate the Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Creating a Beach listed below in this Operational Statement.

If you cannot meet all of the conditions listed above and cannot incorporate all of the measures listed below then your project may result in the violation of subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act and you could be subject to enforcement action. In this case, you should contact your Conservation Authority, or the DFO office in your area (see Ontario DFO office list), if you wish to obtain an opinion on the possible options you should consider to avoid contravention of the Fisheries Act.

You are required to respect all municipal, provincial or federal legislation that applies to the work being carried out in relation to this Operational Statement. The activities undertaken in this Operational Statement must also comply with the Species at Risk Act ( If you have questions regarding this Operational Statement, please contact one of the agencies listed above.

We ask that you notify DFO, preferably 10 working days before starting your work by filling out and sending the Ontario Operational Statement notification form ) to the DFO office in your area. This information is requested in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the work carried out in relation to this Operational Statement.

Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Creating a Beach    Version 3.0

1.     It is preferable to build the beach where sand, pebble or small gravel substrates already exist and in a flat, gently sloping area to prevent the beach material from drifting into the water.

2.     Do not take materials (i.e., rocks, logs) from the shoreline, from below the HWM or from any water body to build the beach.

3.     Install effective sediment and erosion control measures before starting work to prevent sediment from entering the water body. Inspect them regularly during the course of construction and make all necessary repairs if any damage occurs.

4.     Leave a vegetated strip or construct a small berm or edging out of rocks or wood and lined with appropriate material between the beach and the HWM to prevent beach sand from entering into the water.

5.     Use untreated materials (e.g. cedar, tamarack, hemlock, rocks, plastic, etc.) to build beach structures where possible. Treated lumber may contain compounds that can be released into the water and become toxic to the aquatic environment.

5.1.   If treated lumber is used for beach structures it should be environmentally-friendly (see definition below) and only used for structures above water.

5.2.   Cut, seal and stain all lumber away from the water using only environmentally-friendly stains (see definition below). All sealed and stained lumber should be completely dry before being used near water.

6.     Operate machinery on land (above the HWM) and in a manner that minimizes disturbance to the banks of the water body.

6.1.   Machinery is to arrive on site in a clean condition and is to be maintained free of fluid leaks.

6.2.   Wash, refuel and service machinery and store fuel and other materials for the machinery away from the water to prevent any deleterious substances from entering the water.

6.3.   Keep an emergency spill kit on site in case of fluid leaks or spills from machinery.

6.4.   Restore banks to original condition if any disturbance occurs.

7.     While this Operational Statement does not cover the clearing of riparian vegetation, the removal of select plants may be necessary to accommodate the beach. This removal should be kept to a minimum.

8.     Stabilize any waste materials removed from the work site to prevent them from entering the water body (e.g., placing them above the HWM). This could include covering spoil piles with biodegradable mats or tarps or planting them with grass or shrubs.

9.     Vegetate any disturbed areas by planting and seeding preferably with native trees, shrubs or grasses and cover such areas with mulch to prevent erosion and to help seeds germinate. If there is insufficient time remaining in the growing season, the site should be stabilized (e.g., cover exposed areas with erosion control blankets to keep the soil in place and prevent erosion) and vegetated the following spring.

9.1. Maintain effective sediment and erosion control measures until re-vegetation of disturbed areas is achieved.


Ordinary high water mark (HWM) - The usual or average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and remains for sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing waters (rivers, streams) this refers to the “active channel/bank-full level” which is often the 1:2 year flood flow return level. In inland lakes, wetlands or marine environments it refers to those parts of the water body bed and banks that are frequently flooded by water so as to leave a mark on the land and where the natural vegetation changes from predominately aquatic vegetation to terrestrial vegetation (excepting water tolerant species). For reservoirs this refers to normal high operating levels (Full Supply Level).

For the Great Lakes this refers to the 80th percentile elevation above chart datum as described in DFO’s Fish Habitat and Determining the High Water Mark on Lakes.

Environmentally-friendly lumber and stains - Chemical wood preservatives used in Canada are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Health Canada. Approved preservatives used most commonly in lumber are Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ) and Copper Azole (CA). Creosote treated wood should not be used in or near water. Ask your local building supply outlet for further information on available products.



Fisheries and Oceans Canada

3027 Harvester Road, Suite 304

P.O. Box 85060

Burlington, ON L7R 4K3

Telephone: (905) 639-0188

Fax: (905) 639-3549

Email: ReferralsBurlington@DFO-MPO.GC.CA


Fisheries and Oceans Canada

73 Meg Drive

London, ON N6E 2V2

Telephone: (519) 668-2722

Fax: (519) 668-1772

Email: ReferralsLondon@DFO-MPO.GC.CA

Eastern Ontario District


Fisheries and Oceans Canada

501 Towerhill Road, Unit 102

Peterborough, ON K9H 7S3

Telephone: (705) 750-0269

Fax: (705) 750-4016

Email: ReferralsPeterborough@DFO-MPO.GCCA


Fisheries and Oceans Canada

401 King Street West

Prescott, ON K0E 1T0

Telephone: (613) 925-2865

Fax: (613) 925-2245

Email: ReferralsPrescott@DFO-MPO.GCCA

Northern Ontario District

Parry Sound

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

28 Waubeek Street

Parry Sound, ON P2A 1B9

Telephone: (705) 746-2196

Fax: (705) 746-4820

Email: ReferralsParrySound@DFO-MPO.GC.CA

Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

1500 Paris Street, Unit 11

Sudbury, ON P3E 3B8

Telephone: (705) 522-2816

Fax: (705) 522-6421

Email: ReferralsSudbury@DFO-MPO.GC.CA

Thunder Bay and Kenora

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Thunder Bay Office

100 Main Street, Suite 425

Thunder Bay, ON P7B 6R9

Telephone: (807) 346-8118

Fax: (807) 346-8545

Email: ReferralsThunderBay@DFO-MPO.GC.CA

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DFO/2007-1329 ©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2007

This Operational Statement (Version 3.0) may be updated as required by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It is your responsibility to use the most recent version. Please refer to the Operational Statements web site at to ensure that a more recent version has not been released.