The basics

In Ontario, the beds of most water bodies are Crown land.

The ministry manages these lands under the Public Lands Act.

The Public Lands Act applies to the use of provincial Crown land and shore lands. There are some exceptions, including provincial parks and conservation reserves.

The Act does not apply to the use of federal lands and waterbodies (e.g., the Trent-Severn and Rideau Canal waterways).

You may not need a work permit to maintain, repair or replace erosion control structures, if you follow the rules listed below, and you register with the ministry.

You will need a work permit if you want to build a new, or expand an existing, erosion control structure.

Source law

This is a summary of the provincial laws. You can find a complete set of provincial rules under the act in:

Lake Simcoe

For property within the Lake Simcoe watershed but not within the jurisdiction of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, you need a work permit to proceed.

Learn more: Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

Learn more: The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (PDF)

The rules

You do not need a work permit under the Public Lands Act, if you follow all of these rules. You:

  1. are the waterfront property owner or conducting work on behalf of the property owner
  2. keep the same length, width and footprint of the original structure
  3. properly install and maintain sediment controls around the area if sediments (e.g., sand, silt) will be disturbed, and remove them only when work is complete and sediments have settled
  4. dispose of the plants/material you remove on dry land to prevent it from re-entering the water
  5. use, operate or store any wheeled or tracked machinery/equipment on dry land, or on a barge or vessel
  6. always register your work with the ministry before work begins
  7. keep the confirmation of registration onsite and make it available, if requested
  8. do not carry out work during fish spawning season or during the time of other critical fish life stages as set out in the In-water Work Timing Window Guidelines

See: In-water Work Timing Window Guidelines (PDF)

How to register

Changes to how you access the Natural Resources Registry

Beginning November 19, 2023, all new and existing users must have a My Ontario Account to access the Natural Resources Registry. You will no longer be able to use ONe-Key authentication to sign into the registry.

Register an activity online using the Natural Resources Registry. Registration is free.

Read the Natural Resources Registration Guide to learn how to create:

  • a My Ontario account
  • a Natural Resources Registry profile

Once you create a Natural Resources Registry profile, start a new submission and choose Notice of Activity form to register for activities on public land and shore lands.

If you cannot register your activity online

  • Download the Notice of Activity (Public Lands Act) registration form
  • Print, complete and mail the form to:
    Registry and Approval Services Centre
    300 Water Street
    Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 3C7
  • If you are eligible for registration, we will send you a confirmation of registration by mail

When you need a work permit

You will need a work permit to maintain, repair or replace erosion control structures, if you:

  • want to build a new erosion control structure
  • want to expand an existing erosion control structure
  • can't meet all of the rules in this article

If you do not register the activity, can't follow the rules or work without a permit when one is needed, you may be charged and fined.

How to get a work permit

To get a work permit:

  1. download and complete the Application for Work Permit Part 1 (PDF)
  2. download and complete Application to do Work on Shore Lands Part 3 (PDF)
    • include proof of ownership (e.g. deed)
    • include sketches/drawings/survey plans indicating your property lines and where the work is taking place
  3. submit complete application by mail or in person to a local ministry office

Additional information may be required.

Find a ministry work centre

Waterfront property owners

You can only conduct work on shore lands directly in front of your property or where your property is fronted by a road allowance or shoreline reserve.

This diagram illustrates that work can only be conducted on shore lands directly in front of your property.

This diagram is for illustration purposes only.

You may also want to discuss the project with neighbours before starting work. You could be found responsible for damage to another person’s property associated with this work.

Natural shore lands

Use native trees and shrubs to prevent erosion, reduce nutrient runoff and provide habitat for wildlife.

Wild rice

Avoid removing wild rice.

Read: Wild Rice Harvesting Act

Suspected contamination

If you suspect that the area could be contaminated, you should contact a local Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) Office.

Find an MOECC office

Using machinery

Machinery should be kept in clean condition and free from fluid leaks.

Report a spill

To report a spill, call the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.

Spills Action Centre

Ottawa River

For properties along the Ottawa River, you must contact Infrastructure Ontario Property Services for more information:

Related requirements

Before you start any work, find out whether additional authorizations are required.

For example, you may need to check with:

  • local conservation authority
  • Ontario Ministry of the Environment
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Transport Canada
  • local municipality/township
  • Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for endangered and protected species
  • Other provincial ministries
  • Ontario One Call (to see if hydro/gas lines could be impacted)

Remember that maintaining, repairing or replacing erosion control structures on shore lands does not give you any right, title or interest in the Crown land.