floating dock

As part of Cataraqui Conservation’s core mandate to review activities related to development and alterations to shorelines of lakes and watercourses, there is a permitting process for anyone choosing to construct a permanent dock along the shoreline of their property.

“The intent of our review is to make sure docks aren’t going to worsen flooding and erosion issues on your property or any nearby properties and that it’s not going to have any negative environmental impact on wetlands in the area. We want to ensure that people aren’t overdeveloping in an area that is going to be at natural risk of flooding, or heave forces from the ice, that kind of thing,” said Hailey Esdon, Development officer for Cataraqui Conservation.

“We try to encourage people to install narrower docks along the shoreline, which limits the amount of disturbance in that land/water interface, because those are important ecological areas. We don’t want to cause too much site alteration in those sensitive shoreline areas. We don’t want to have too much shading over the water because that can impact the growth of vegetation, which is a habitat for benthic invertebrates and small fish.”

If a dock is removable (e.g. seasonal floating docks), no permit is required from Cataraqui Conservation, although a permit may be needed if it is attached to a permanent structure, such as a concrete pad on land. Esdon said that there are basically two common types of permanent docks – those that are constructed using the post-pile method and crib docks. The definition of ‘permanent dock’ is something that is affixed to the lakebed or riverbed and stays in place year-round and can’t be easily removed, unless it is demolished.

types of docks

A crib dock has a wooden support structure (“crib”), generally four feet by four feet or six feet by six feet, which is then filled with stone to be the support base for the dock. This form is more labour intensive and intrusive on the natural environment, and Esdon said it is becoming less common as folks are looking to use construction methods that will have the lowest impact on the surrounding area. Therefore installing the dock using the post-pile method, which sees six- to eight-inch diameter support posts driven into the lake or riverbed. These also tend to be less subject to damage from ice in the winter compared to the cribs. Better yet, temporary, removable docks such as floating and aluminum post-supported docks may have the least impact of all on the waterbody and, as a bonus, do not require permit approval from Cataraqui Conservation.

Esdon said that it’s important for those who are considering the installation of a dock to contact Cataraqui Conservation, their local municipality, and the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry to ensure they are following all the appropriate measures.

“One thing that we do look at is to make sure that the proposed dock is actually going to be used to moor a boat, which is supposed to be the purpose of a dock. Sometimes we get people who essentially want to build a huge deck in the water. They’re not docks, it’s this massive structure that would encompass the entire shoreline of their property. I would say that for the most part, people are pretty understanding of the role and purpose of the permitting process to help protect the sensitive shoreline areas” she said.

If waterfront property owners are looking to install new seating or gathering areas near the water’s edge, Esdon encourages considering at-grade landscaping options as opposed to structures in the water.

“We have general best management practices such as sediment and erosion controls and abiding by in-water work timing windows for fish spawning that we outline in our permit when it comes to the actual construction process and being as non-intrusive as possible.”

Cataraqui Conservation development review staff welcome any and all inquiries about the need for permits for any project that is proposed for a shoreline, including docks. Esdon said she and her colleagues are happy to do a pre-consultation and even a site visit, as it saves all parties time and headaches. The costs of the inquiry and site visit would be incorporated into the overall cost of the permit.

Permit staff are currently experiencing very high volumes of applications and inquires. We ask for your patience during this extremely busy time and thank you for your understanding.

For further details on dock and shoreline permitting visit our Docks & Shoreline Work Page.