Riparian Area Regulation

The Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) is a provincial regulation brought into force in 2005 under the Fish Protection Act and is now enabled under the 2016 British Columbia Riparian Areas Protection Act. Riparian areas border bodies of freshwater such as streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands.  RAR Assessments are used to determine the streamside (riparian) setback areas or buffer strips that are to be protected free from development in order to maintain the features, functions and conditions that support fish life processes in the riparian assessment area in which a development is proposed.

There are two types of RAR Assessments: simple or detailed. RAR Simple Assessments use aerial photography to determine the width of existing or potential streamside vegetation and consideration of the duration of stream flows (permanence) and presence of fish populations to determine the Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area (SPEA), which commonly are 30 m wide and measured from the stream top of bank.  RAR Simple Assessments follow the procedures applied under the former 2001 Streamside Protection Regulation (SPR). RAR Detailed Assessments entail field work and stream measurements to calculate the SPEA using specified factors associated with a variety of zones of sensitivity.  Calculated SPEA under Detailed Assessment methods can be narrower than Simple Assessment SPEA; however the minimum calculated SPEA often may be widened to account for Measures to protect the integrity of the SPEA such as steep slope stability or protecting trees in the SPEA from windthrow. Phoenix has years of experience in conducting RAR Assessments in the Lower Mainland area.

Many local governments have enacted watercourse protection bylaws that meet or exceed the requirements of RAR.  Some of the streamside protection bylaws of local governments include provisions for flexing streamside setback boundaries within limits provided the size of the setback area is the same as the prescribed setback that normally applies.  Local government zoning bylaws and environmental development permits also include habitat protection for wildlife and other ecologically significant features. Preserving active nests used by birds of prey (eagles, hawks, owls, herons) can also exclude parts of a property from development.