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Interim code of practice: temporary stream crossings

1 About this code of practice

This code of practice outlines national best practices for temporary stream crossings. For the purpose of this code of practice these may include fords, temporary clear span bridges (including Bailey bridges or log stringer bridges) and temporary winter crossings (i.e. ice bridges and snow fills). Temporary watercourse crossings are required to access infrastructure and property for construction and maintenance activities. They are employed for short term access across a watercourse by construction vehicles when an existing crossing is not available or practical to use. They are not intended for prolonged use (e.g., forest or mining haul roads).

The use of temporary bridges or dry fording is preferred over fording in flowing water due to the lower risk of fish injury and mortality, damaging the bed and banks of the watercourse, and sedimentation of downstream fish habitat.

Ice bridges and snow fills provide cost-effective access to remote areas when rivers and streams are frozen. Since the ground is frozen, ice bridges and snow fills can be built with minimal disturbance to the bed and banks of the watercourse.

There are however risks to fish and fish habitat associated with temporary stream crossings. These include the potential for: direct harm to stream banks and beds; release of sediments or other deleterious substances (e.g., fuel and lubricants); loss or damage of riparian vegetation; disruption of the sensitive life stages of fish; and injury and death of fish during wet fording. In the case of ice bridges and snow fills, blockage of fish passage during spring break up may also occur.

A project review by DFO is not required when the conditions and measures set out in this code of practice and all applicable Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat are applied.

This code does not remove or replace the obligation to comply with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements of the Fisheries Act, or other federal, provincial, or municipal legislation and policy.

2 You can use this code of practice if:

2.1 Temporary bridges

2.2 Fords

2.3 Winter crossings

Request a project near water review when the works, undertakings and activities do not meet all of the criteria listed in this section.

3 Measures to protect fish and fish habitat

3.1 Protection of fish

3.2 Protection of fish passage

3.3 Protection of the riparian zone

3.4 Protection of aquatic habitat

3.5 Protection of fish habitat from sedimentation

3.6 Protection of fish and fish habitat from deleterious substances (including suspended sediments)

3.7 Additional measures for temporary crossings - general

3.8 Additional measures for fords

3.9 Additional measures for winter crossings (ice bridges and snow fills)

3.10 Additional measures for temporary clear span bridges

4 Notification

When making use of this code of practice, please submit a Notification Form (PDF, 50 KB) to your regional DFO office to help us improve this fish and fish habitat protection guidance over time.

To fill out a PDF form, you must:

  1. download it to your computer
  2. use PDF software to open it (such as, Adobe Reader or Foxit PDF)

For more information: How to download and open a PDF form

It is your Duty to Notify DFO if you have caused, or are about to cause, the unauthorized death of fish by means other than fishing and/or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. Such notifications should be directed to the Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program.

5 Contact us

If you have questions regarding this code of practice contact the Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program located in your region.

6 Glossary

A shallow, stable crossing location that does not require alteration of the bed or bank of the watercourse.
Ordinary high water mark
The usual or average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and remains for sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing waters (e.g., rivers, streams) this refers to the "active channel/bank-full level" which is often the 1:2 year flood flow return level. In inland lakes, wetlands or marine environments it refers to those parts of the water-body bed and banks that are frequently flooded by water so as to leave a mark on the land and where the natural vegetation changes from predominately aquatic vegetation to terrestrial vegetation (excepting water tolerant species). For reservoirs this refers to normal high operating levels (i.e. full supply level).
Riparian zone
Area adjacent to streams, lakes, and wetlands that support a unique mixture of water tolerant vegetation from trees and shrubs to aquatic and herbaceous plants.
Temporary clear span bridge
Small scale bridge structures (e.g., Bailey bridge or log stringer bridge) that completely span the watercourse, do not alter the stream bed or bank, and are a maximum of one lane wide. The bridge structure (including bridge approaches, abutments, footings, and armouring is built entirely above the ordinary high water mark.
Winter crossings - Ice bridges and snow fills
These are two methods used for temporary winter access in remote areas. Ice bridges are constructed on large watercourses that have sufficient stream flow and water depth to prevent the ice bridge from coming into contact with the stream bed or restricting water movement beneath the ice. Snow fills are temporary stream crossings constructed by filling a stream channel with clean compacted snow, and are typically used for crossing smaller watercourses.
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