We need to fix our shoreline. Are there bylaw and environmental considerations that we need to be aware of?
—Nancy Sangiuliano, via e-mail
Any regulations, bylaws, or work permit requirements depend on your location and what exactly you plan to do to your shoreline. For example, projects above the high-water mark may need a permit from your municipality; projects that could disrupt fish habitat could require special authorization by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). So your first step is to contact your municipality, plus any local environmental offices (the Ministry of Natural Resources, your Conservation Authority, and/or the DFO) for advice.
We assume you’re fixing your shoreline because it’s been altered or it’s eroding (or both), and you want to restore it to a more natural, healthy state. Though the fix will depend on the problem—a crumbling breakwall may need to be removed first, for instance—keep in mind that nature-friendly shorelines have these features: a 15-to-30-metre-deep buffer zone of vegetation to provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and to filter contaminants from runoff (this is especially important if you have a lawn); a mix of native plants, shrubs, grasses, and trees to hold the shoreline in place; driftwood and fallen logs for spawning grounds and hiding spots; shoreline-friendly docks; and—yick—aquatic weeds. No one likes to swim through them, but they do provide crucial food and shelter for underwater dwellers.