Listed below are some of the more common permits that may be required around lake shoreline and wetland habitats. It is always best to call the appropriate departments early in the planning stage. However, there is much you can do beyond legal requirements to enjoy your land and help
the species at risk that live in your backyard.
Permits Issued by Nova Scotia Environment
For more information please call 902-742-8985 or visit This website lists all of Nova Scotia Environment’s permit application forms.
The “Water Approval” permit is required prior to undertaking activities that modify the lake shoreline and is required for all lake shoreline alterations below the ordinary high water mark.
Dock Building
Lake waters, lake bottoms, and the land up to the high water mark is crown land and owned by the province. Contact your local area inspector at Nova Scotia Environment (refer to the 'Contact Information' page) to see if you need to apply for the “Water Approval” permit before you start building your dock (In section 4 of the permit, dock building falls under “Other Alterations”).
The federal Fisheries Act protects fish habitat by prohibiting any work that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat (unless authorized first by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada). It also prohibits the deposition of harmful substances into water bodies containing fish.
The “Wetland Alteration Approval” permit is required to fill, drain, flood, or excavate any wetland on your property. As wetlands represent sensitive habitats this permit will not be issued if there are reasonable alternatives or the alteration is for aesthetic purposes only.
On-site Sewage Systems
The provincial Environment Act and the On-site Sewage Disposal Regulations govern all aspects of installing and maintaining on-site sewage systems. Under these regulations, you must obtain approval from Nova Scotia Environment before installing a sewage system and hire a qualified professional. For more information contact your local Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division (refer to the 'Contact Information' page).
Agricultural Stream Crossings
A “Watercourse Alteration Permit” is required before building an agricultural stream crossing.
Permits Issued by Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
For more information call 902-424-5935, or visit
This site lists the permits issued by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.
Coastal Wharves and Moorings
Before building a wharf or any other structure below the ordinary high water mark of any coastal waters, you must have a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. For more information visit or call 902-424-2494.
There are developmental restrictions on 13 key Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora lakes in Yarmouth County including Salmon, Kegeshook, Wilson’s, Third, Gillfillan, Bennett’s, Sloans, Aagard, Lac de l’Ecole, Pearl, Kempt Snare, Travis, and Lake Fanning. Any shoreline modifications (including dock building) require a permit and a site assessment from a Department of Natural Resources Regional Biologist. To apply for a permit and arrange for a site visit please call Nova Scotia Environment at 902-742-8985.
Land use by-laws in Nova Scotia can vary based on what municipality you live in. Please contact your local municipal office to learn about the land-use by-laws in your region (refer to the 'Contact Information' page).