>> Environmental Laws and Regulations
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>> Drainage

The Ministry of Transportation has a responsibility to safeguard the environment as much as possible in all of its activities.

Performing highway works with due diligence entails the following:
  • Be familiar with the municipal, provincial and federal legal requirements
  • Recognize and address the potential environmental impacts of your works to the physical, chemical and biological components of the environment
  • Avoid, mitigate or lessen those impacts or risks in the planning of work
  • Ensure the protection of properties and human health
  • Obtain the appropriate permits and authorizations from all regulatory agencies before proceeding with activities
  • Conduct your works in a manner that complies with the law and avoids, mitigates or lessens potential impacts to aquatic and riparian habitats, water quality and quantity, fish and wildlife populations, and public safety and property.

Your responsibilities for the protection of the environment when on the Ministry's right-of-way include, but are not limited to:

  • Complying with all applicable federal and provincial legislation and regulations.
  • On a construction project with particular environmental concerns, it pays to have an environmental management plan in place. One method of accelerating your environmental management plan is by retaining a qualified environmental consultant or an environmental construction monitor on an "as and when" basis.

  • Protecting fish and fish habitat by not altering or destroying fish habitat and not releasing deleterious substances, including silt and vehicle fluids, into watercourses.
  • If you are planning a development which will affect streams or ditches in any way, NOTIFY the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Even if you do not require a permit to carry out your work, notification is a courtesy that will save time, effort and aggravation later.

  • Protecting endangered species and their habitats by not altering or destroying their habitats, including nesting sites, and not killing or injuring the animals or their young.
  • Under the federal Species at Risk Act, recovery plans are being developed for 75 endangered species and 48 threatened species. These recovery plans, to be released July 2006, will affect work on provincial highways, as buffer zones will form a part of the recovery strategy.

  • Protecting indigenous ecosystems and local agricultural operations by not introducing foreign plants, such as invasive weeds, and not dumping waste materials and waste fluids on or into the highway right-of-way.

  • Complying with the Heritage Conservation Act in reporting any archaeological resources known or found through the process of development

More detailed information can be found in the Ministry of Environment's Environmental Best Practices for Urban and Rural Development in British Columbia (note: this is a large document that will take several minutes on high-speed Internet to download).

Environment Laws and Regulations

A number of legislative acts, regulations and policies apply to activities and structures on the right-of-way. These include the following:

The Ministry offers Best Management Practices for Highway Maintenance Activities. This publication, while written for highway maintenance contractors, offers the regulatory background for all environmental stewardship practices, and highlights some excellent practices which apply to highway permit and approval activities as well as highway maintenance .


Contaminated Sites

On April 1, 1997 the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act (B.C. Reg. 375/96) took effect. If the permit proposal involves land that has been used or is used for industrial or commercial purposes or activities, you may have to provide a site profile, a form which describes the potential hazards on the land.

Schedule 2 of the regulation sets out some examples of the types of industrial or commercial land uses to which site profile requirements apply. More information is available from Ministry of Environment offices. If the land has not been used for industrial or commercial purposes you may provide a letter to that effect, rather than a site profile. A letter template is available.

More information about contaminated sites is available at



The highway drainage system is for the protection of the provincial highway right-of-way. It is not designed or intended to serve the drainage requirements of abutting properties beyond that which has historically flowed to the provincial right-of-way.

Drainage to the provincial highway right-of-way will not be permitted to exceed the undeveloped historical flow. Instead, use controlled flow detention ponds to control the flow from developed properties. When the development requires curbs and gutters, you can eliminate the drainage ditch by installing a storm sewer system. The Ministry shall determine the appropriate drainage controls necessary to meet existing or projected site-specific conditions.

Ministry staff may find that the site requires a drainage study by a qualified engineer registered in British Columbia. The type, design, and condition of drainage structures must meet the approval of the Ministry of Transportation in unincorporated areas and the local government and the Ministry in incorporated areas. Ministry drainage design and specifications requirements are outlined in Section 1010 of the BC Supplement to TAC Geometric Guide and Standard Specifications for Highway Construction.

Construction of Drainage

When constructing a development, please provide, at your own expense, drainage structures for the development which will become an integral part of the existing drainage system. All drainage works shall be designed using the dual drainage or minor/major system concept.

Minor Drainage System

The minor, or piped, system consists primarily of the storm sewer system: inputs, conduits, manholes, and other appurtenances designed to collect and discharge into a major system for frequently occurring storms (e.g. less than 10 year return period).

Major Drainage System

The major, or overland, system will come into operation once the minor system's capacity is exceeded. Thus, in developments where the major system has been planned, the streets and ditches may act as open channels directing the excess storm water to nearby watercourses without endangering the public, damaging property or causing excessive erosion.

Please construct each access so that:

  • water does not enter onto the roadway
  • the access will not interfere with the existing drainage system on the right-of-way, or the municipal drainage plan.

In roadside ditches, access culverts should be a minimum of 400 mm in diameter, as determined by the development approvals technician.

Infilling of Ditches by Property Owners

Infilling of road-side ditches by adjacent property owners, at their own cost, may be permitted if it complies with Ministry Standard Specifications and ensures proper drainage is maintained.

At the discretion of the District Transportation official, a Professional Engineer experienced in Hydrology may design and inspect ditch-infilling proposals. The Engineer is to certify that the works have been installed to Ministry standards and in accordance with good engineering practice. The property owner is responsible to contact the environmental agencies and, where applicable, obtain their approvals for the works. The ditch infilling works, once installed and approved, become the property of the province.

Infilling of ditches will not be permitted:

  • Where the ditch forms an integral part of a flood control system
  • Where water storage in the ditch provides a significant reduction in peak flow rates
  • Within 3 metres of a cross culvert, unless an approved culvert inlet or a manhole is installed
  • Adjacent to any highway other than a rural minor highway and secondary highways, and urban minor and local streets
  • In areas used as fish habitat, unless approval by the appropriate environmental agencies is obtained
  • In areas not approved by the District Manager, Transportation

More information is available in the Ministry of Environment Environmental Best Practices for Urban and Rural Development in British Columbia.

This guide is a living document; it is subject to change without notice. Please check the Rural Subdivisions Website (http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/permits/Subdibision_Home.asp) to make sure you version is sufficiently current.