Municipal Class Environmental Assessment
Part A - Class EA Planning Process




Municipal projects may be subject to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEA Act). The CEA Act normally applies to federal authorities when they contemplate some action in relation to a project, as defined in the CEA Act, or a component of the project which would enable it to proceed in whole or in part. A federal environmental assessment (EA) may be required when, in respect of a project, a federal authority:


a)   is the proponent of a project;

b)   provides financial assistance to the proponent;

c)   makes federal lands available for the project; or

d)   issues a permit or license, or other form of approval pursuant to a       statutory or            regulatory provision referred to in the Law List Regulations.


Federal authorities that are “triggered” in one or more of the above four ways are called responsible authorities (RAs). It should be noted that even if a project is ‘pre-approved’ under the Municipal Class EA, there still may be a CEA Act requirement if one of the above conditions apply.


The following provides a brief overview of the CEA Act requirements. This information, however, is not all inclusive and is provided for information purposes only to aid proponents in identifying potential CEA Act requirements. For specific details, refer to the legislation, regulations, guidance materials and operational policy statements available on the Agency’s website. The Agency also offers training courses on the CEA Act and the planning and conduct of EAs subject to CEA Act and related topics. For further information about the CEA Act and EA coordination you may consult the following resources:






Consult the Ministry of the Environment on all complex projects.

  • for the potential applications of the CEA Act to project proposals, contact the federal departments listed in Appendix 7.
  • for general information on the CEA Act, see the guidance document Information Requirements for Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (EA) Projects - Guidance Document (2005) which may be found at www.dfo­
  • for coordination, review the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Environmental Assessment Cooperation included in Appendix 7.
  • for federal responsibilities and requirements in environmental assessment, contact:


Director, Ontario Region

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

55 St. Clair Avenue East, Room 907, 

Toronto, Ontario

M4T 1M2

Tel. : (416) 952-1576

Fax: (416) 952-1573




The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (Agency) administers the CEA Act and in doing so provides advice, guidance and training to federal departments, proponents, the public and others related to the implementation and requirements of the CEA Act. For projects that are subject to both the Municipal Class EA and the CEA Act, the Agency acts as the federal environmental assessment coordinator and facilitates the involvement of RA(s) and federal authorities in a coordinated assessment aimed at meeting all agencies’ needs simultaneously. One of the objectives of coordination is to minimize duplication to the extent possible when a project is subject to federal and provincial EA approvals.


The proponent is expected to contact the Agency as soon as possible after becoming aware of a Municipal Class EA project that may trigger the CEA Act. Early engagement of the Agency and federal departments can optimize opportunities for coordination. Should the CEA Act apply to the Class EA project and the proponent chooses to coordinate the two EA processes, the Agency will work with the proponent to facilitate a coordinated approach and advise them on issues related to coordination.


A table highlighting potential CEA Act triggers for projects conducted under the Municipal Class EA and the corresponding RA is provided in Appendix 7. As well, a list identifying other federal authorities with expertise to offer for various environmental issues is included in Appendix 7. Contact information may be obtained from the Agency’s Ontario Regional Director (see above).


Where there is a CEA Act trigger, then the federal RA assesses the project under CEA Act and ensures a project fulfills the associated CEA Act requirements. It is the RA’s responsibility under CEA Act to establish the scope of project and scope of assessment. 


While often it is possible to use the ESR prepared under the Municipal Class EA as the basis for the CEA Act environmental assessment, it should not be assumed that the ESR will always be sufficient or acceptable in all cases. Some additional information may have to be incorporated depending on what the RA requires to meet CEA Act requirements. The proponent should, therefore, contact the Agency and/or the RA early in the EA process and obtain confirmation of CEA Act EA requirements.


It should be noted that many of the triggers involve obtaining permits or approvals. Consequently, a trigger may not be actually identified until the detail design stage, i.e. after Phase 4 of the Municipal Class EA Project and determination of the recommended undertaking. Municipal proponents are therefore encouraged to contact those federal authorities with a potential interest in a project early in the Class EA process to ensure timely communication and awareness of potential issues related to both the federal and provincial EA processes.


A.2.11.1 Fisheries Act


The Fisheries Act sets out general habitat and pollution protection provisions that are binding on all levels of government and the public in areas such as:

  • Section 20: Passage of fish around migration barriers;
  • Section 22: Provision of sufficient water flows;
  • Section 30: Screening of water intakes;
  • Section 32: Prohibition against the destruction of fish by means other than fishing unless authorized by DFO;
  • Section 35: The prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat unless authorized by DFO; and
  • Section 36: Prohibition to deposit deleterious substances unless by regulation (administered by Environment Canada, with the exception of subsection 36(3) with respect to sediment). 


Under the Fisheries Act, no one may carry out any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat, unless this HADD has been authorized by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Where adverse effects to fish habitat cannot be avoided through project relocation, redesign or mitigation, habitat compensation options may be required and a subsection 35(2) Fisheries Act authorization issued. Where the HADD is not acceptable, the authorization may be refused.


A subsection 35(2) Fisheries Act authorization is a regulatory trigger for an environmental assessment under the CEA Act. CEA Act requirements must be completed prior to making a decision on whether to issue a subsection 35(2) Fisheries Act authorization.


DFO has agreements with the Conservation Authorities in Ontario. Conservation Authorities are the first point of contact for the majority of projects in and around water in Ontario. Depending on the level of agreement, Conservation Authorities will undertake an initial review of the project, provide mitigation advice and/or review habitat compensation plans. Projects requiring review, Fisheries Act authorization and/or assessment under CEA Act are forwarded to DFO. In cases where there is no Conservation Authority, the local MNR office is the first point of contact.


A.2.11.2 Navigable Waters Protection Act


The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) is a federal law designed to protect the public right of navigation. It ensures that works constructed in navigable waterways are reviewed and regulated so as to minimize the overall impact upon navigation.


Projects that require approval under the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) may trigger the requirements for an EA under the CEA Act (see Section A.2.11). To ascertain whether or not a waterway or watercourse is considered to be navigable, contact Transport Canada’s (TC) – Navigable Waters Protection Program.


Municipal Projects may be subject to the requirements of CEAA.

Also note that it is TC that makes the determination on whether a NWPA approval is required along with any related CEA Act responsibilities. If TC decides an approvals permit is required, it cannot issue that approval until all the CEA Act requirements are fulfilled. Therefore proponents are urged to identify any issues early in the Class EA process.


A.2.11.3 Species at Risk Act (SARA)


The purposes of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) are to:


  • prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from being extirpated or becoming extinct;
  • to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity; and 
  • to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.


Two federal Ministers are responsible for the administration of SARA. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for aquatic species at risk (SAR) except for those located in national parks, national historic sites or other protected heritage areas. The Minister of the Environment (through the Parks Canada Agency) is responsible for individuals of species at risk found in national parks, national historic sites or other protected heritage areas. The Minister of the Environment is also responsible for all other species at risk and for the overall administration of SARA.


There are three prohibitions in SARA that apply to extirpated, endangered or threatened species at risk listed on Schedule 1. It is an offence to:


  • kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened. (Section 32).
  • possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened. (Section 32).
  • damage or destroy the residence of one or more individuals of a wildlife species that is listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened. (Section 33).
  • destroy any part of the critical habitat of any listed Endangered or Threatened species, or of any Extirpated species if a recovery strategy has recommended the reintroduction of the species into the wild in Canada. (Section 58).


If the proposed work or undertaking is likely to contravene one or more of these prohibitions, a SARA permit may be required (section 73).


SARA contains three provisions that affect the federal environmental assessment (EA) process. They include:


  • Section 137 – amended the definition of "environmental effect" under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).


  • Subsection 79(1) –a requirement to notify the competent ministers during an EA.
  • Subsection 79(2) – a requirement to ensure the implementation of mitigation and monitoring of effects on species at risk. 


Further information on SARA can be found at: