Dock and Boathouse Construction in Freshwater Systems
Version 3.0 (PDF)
Docks and boathouses are common features on the shorelines
of lakes and rivers in Canada and are an important part of the
recreational use of our waterways. This Operational Statement
applies to docks which consist of floating platforms or those
supported by pipes, poles or cantilever arms. The shoreline
area in front of your cottage or waterfront property is also
important habitat for a variety of aquatic organisms, including
fish. Fish lay their eggs, feed and hide from predators in these
Building a dock or boathouse along your waterfront can impact
this important habitat by covering spawning habitat, removing
rocks and logs that provide shelter, causing erosion and sedimentation
from bank disturbance, introducing deleterious substances if
improper building materials are used and disrupting sensitive
fish life stages.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for protecting
fish and fish habitat across Canada. Under the Fisheries
Act no one may carry out a work or undertaking that will
cause the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD)
of fish habitat unless it has been authorized by DFO. By following
the conditions and measures set out below you will be in compliance
with subsection 35(1) of the Fisheries Act.
The purpose of this Operational Statement is to describe
the conditions under which it is applicable to your project
and the measures to incorporate into your project in order to
avoid negative impacts to fish habitat. You may proceed with
your dock or boathouse project without DFO review when you meet
the following conditions:
- it is a new, repair or rebuild of a floating, cantilever
or post dock or boathouse, with a total combined footprint
no greater than 24 m2
- it does not occur over or adjacent to a location involving
known fish spawning habitat,
- it does not require any dredging, blasting or infilling
in the water body, and
- you incorporate the Measures to Protect Fish and
Fish Habitat when Building your Dock listed below in
this Operational Statement.
If you cannot meet all of the conditions listed above and
cannot incorporate all of the measures listed below then your
project may result in a violation of subsection 35(1) of the
Fisheries Actand you could be subject to enforcement
action. In this case, you should contact the DFO office in your
area if you wish to obtain DFO’s opinion on the possible options
you should consider to avoid contravention of the Fisheries
You are required to comply with all municipal, provincial,
territorial and/or federal legislation that applies to the work
being carried out in relation to this Operational Statement.
In British Columbia, please contact the
Water Stewardship Division, Ministry of Environment for
information on the Provincial Water Regulation notification
requirements when planning to conduct dock and boathouse construction
in or around BC waters.
The activities undertaken in this Operational Statement must
also comply with the
Species at Risk Act. For general information on
aquatic SARA species visit the following web site:
and/or contact DFO by email at:
If you have questions regarding this Operational Statement,
please refer to the list of Frequently
Asked Questions or contact DFO Regional Headquarters at
Please notify DFO 10 working days before starting your work
by filling out and sending the
Pacific Region Operational
Statement notification form directly to DFO Regional Headquarters.
This information is requested in order to evaluate the effectiveness
of the work carried out in relation to this Operational Statement.
It is recommended that you keep a copy of the Operational Statement
at the work site to demonstrate to Habitat and Fishery Officer
staff that the conditions and measures, as outlined in the OS,
are being followed.
Area of Application
This Operational Statement applies to the province of British
Columbia and Yukon Territory freshwater systems only.
Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Building
your Dock and Boathouse
- Use existing trails, roads, or cut lines wherever possible
to avoid disturbance to the riparian vegetation (i.e., vegetation
that occurs adjacent to the watercourse).
- While this Operational Statement does not cover the
clearing of riparian vegetation, the removal of select plants
may be necessary to access the construction site. This removal
should be kept to a minimum.
- Avoid construction or placement of your dock or boathouse
in areas of known fish spawning habitat.
- Where multiple docks are proposed, ensure that there
is a minimum of 50 meters (164 ft) of undisturbed shoreline
between docks or other in-water structures.
- The construction of boathouses above the
high water mark (HWM) is strongly encouraged in order
to minimize impacts to fish habitat.
- Locate your dock to avoid aquatic vegetation. Minimize
disturbance to the lakebed and surrounding aquatic vegetation
by positioning the dock in water deep enough to avoid grounding
of the dock and/or impacts by prop wash.
- Do not take materials (e.g., rock, logs) to build the
dock from the shoreline, from below the
HWM or from
any water body.
- If rocks, stumps or logs need to be moved on the lake
or river bottom or shoreline to build the dock, they should
be relocated to an area of similar depth and not removed
altogether from the bottom or shoreline.
- Install effective sediment and erosion control measures
before starting work to prevent the entry of sediment into
the watercourse. Inspect them regularly during the course
of construction and make all necessary repairs if any damage
9.1. Avoid doing work during wet and rainy periods.
- Use untreated materials (e.g. cedar, tamarack, hemlock,
rocks, plastic, etc.) as supports for dock structures that
will be submerged in water. Treated lumber may contain compounds
that can be released into the water and become toxic to
the aquatic environment.
10.1. Use only treated lumber that is environmentally-friendly
(see definition below) for dock structures that are above
10.2. Cut, seal and stain all lumber away from the water
using only environmentally-friendly stains.
All sealed and stained lumber should be completely dry before
being used near water.
10.3. Ensure plastic barrel floats are free of chemicals
inside and outside of the barrel before they are placed
10.4. Avoid the use of rubber tires as they are known to
release compounds that are toxic to fish.
- Wherever possible, construct the dock either from a
barge or float on the water or through the ice instead of
using machinery from the bank of the water body.
- Operate machinery on land (above the
HWM) and in
a manner that minimizes disturbance to the banks of the
12.1. Machinery is to arrive on site in a clean condition
and is to be maintained free of fluid leaks, invasive species
and noxious weeds.
12.2. Wash, refuel and service machinery and store fuel
and other materials for the machinery away from the water
to prevent any deleterious substance from entering the water.
12.3. Keep an emergency spill kit on site in case of fluid
leaks or spills from machinery.
12.4. Restore banks to original condition if any disturbance
- If a concrete abutment is needed to secure your dock
to land install it entirely on land, above the
HWM. The concrete
is to be pre-cast and cured away from the water before use
to prevent seepage of potentially toxic substances into
the water body.
- Prevent deleterious substances such as uncured concrete,
grout, paint, sediment and preservatives from entering the
water body or storm drains.
- Vegetate any disturbed areas by planting and seeding
with native trees, shrubs or grasses and cover such areas
with mulch to prevent erosion and to help seeds germinate.
All seeding and/or planting trees should follow the DFO
If there is insufficient time remaining in the growing season,
the site should be stabilized (e.g., cover exposed areas
with erosion control blankets to keep the soil in place
and prevent erosion) and vegetated the following spring.
15.1. Maintain effective sediment and erosion control measures
until re-vegetation of disturbed areas is achieved.
lumber and stains – Chemical wood preservatives
used in Canada are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory
Agency, Health Canada. Approved preservatives used most
commonly in lumber are Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)
and Copper Azole (CA). Creosote treated wood should not
be used in or near water. Ask your local building supply
outlet for further information on available products or
check the Wood
Preservation Canada Website.