Do I need a permit to expand my existing stationary dock?

Published: September 16, 2011 · Updated: June 12, 2017

I want to add to my existing stationary dock, approx 12 sq. feet. Do I need to apply for permits, or just do it?

—Brian Bushert

Don’t just do it! Even if you’re making only a small change to your dock, it’s possible you may need approval from one or, unfortunately, many governing bodies, depending on what you’re doing and where your lake is located.

These include: your municipality, a local Conservation Authority, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Parks Canada (if you cottage on a federal waterway under its jurisdiction) or Transport Canada (if your dock addition were to interfere with a navigable waterway).

Argh! For a measly dock addition? Don’t be discouraged. A little Internet-based recon can help you suss out if you’ll need the go-ahead from any of these organizations. For example, the DFO encourages folks to use the online Operational Statement to figure out if a new dock project will follow a set of rules set out to protect fish habitat. If so, the work doesn’t need a review. Similarly, Transport Canada says that if your endeavor meets the criteria for a “minor work,” it may not need approval under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Parks Canada has its own regulations, so if you cottage on the Trent-Severn Waterway or the Rideau Canal, check out this Docks and Boatlifts section for info.

But before you spend hours on the web, it may be simpler to just pick up the phone, and make two important local calls: First, to your municipality, since some have rules about what you can build in the water, and next, to the closest MNR office. The MNR—responsible for issuing work permits, under the Public Lands Act, for work on or near the beds of many Ontario lakes and rivers—can advise you on any other approvals you may need.