Table of contents

WCP overview

Several fish species – Arctic grayling, Athabasca rainbow trout, bull trout and Westslope cutthroat trout – have called Alberta’s eastern slopes home for thousands of years and rely on cool, clean, clear and connected waters to survive and thrive. These species are in population decline.

Watercourse crossings can fragment fish habitats and impact water quality. A watercourse crossing is any linear disturbance – be it road or trail – that intersects a stream.

Stream fords and poorly installed or maintained structures such as culverts can:

  • change the stream channel
  • devegetate banks
  • slow down the water allowing it to warm and decrease concentrations of dissolved oxygen
  • transport large amounts of sediment downstream smothering fish nurseries and removing habitat for aquatic invertebrates

The goal of the Watercourse Crossing Program (WCP) is to address threats to fish survival stemming from trails and poorly constructed and maintained watercourse crossings that cause habitat fragmentation, erosion and sedimentation.

The magnitude of the fish habitat restoration challenge is considerable, with thousands of crossings across the province spanning multiple industrial sectors and regulatory authorities.

Provincial and federal regulators work with crossing owners and stewardship groups to identify and prioritize crossings that maximize ecological outcomes. These regulators include:

  • Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas
  • Alberta Energy Regulator (AER)
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation
  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)

Management directive

The Watercourse Crossing Management Directive is a voluntary program that allows crossing owners the opportunity to inspect, report and develop a plan for remediation in accordance with the directive.

Crossing owners who do not choose to follow the directive or are deemed to be not meeting the intent of the directive by the regulator may have their crossings subject to inspection and, if appropriate, enforcement action by the regulator to ensure appropriate actions are taken to address the non-compliance.

To maintain compliance with the directive, crossing owners must do a number of things:

  • Magnifying glass icon

    Crossing owners must inspect the watercourse crossings that they own. For reference, see::

    Contact us for assistance in prioritizing crossing inspections.

  • Paper and pencil icon

    Watercourse crossing inspection data must be submitted to the applicable regulator by November 30. Watercourse crossing inspections capture information such as:

    • crossing location and crossing type
    • structure sizing
    • fish passage
    • water quality (erosion or sedimentation)
    • presence of barriers
    • any structural issues of the crossing itself that contribute to the potential failure of the crossing

    Reports may be submitted through:

  • Wrenches icon

    By March 31 of each year, crossing owners must submit a plan to remediate all crossings that are not in compliance.

    Priority watersheds and what you need to know if you are a crossing owner can be found in the Alberta Watercourse Crossing Owner Information Package.

    Review this example of a watercourse crossing remediation:

  • Clasped hands icon
    Watershed-based collaboration for priority remediation

    Contact us to become involved with the:

    • Crossing Owner Stakeholder Advisory Committee
    • Native Trout Coordination Committee

    Collaborative Watershed-based approach to crossing management in priority order for non-compliant crossings can be found in the Watercourse Crossings Management Directive.


Alberta Watercourse Crossing Inventory App Image

The WCP created the ABWCI App to:

  • collect data measuring the extent of the watercourse crossing problem
  • address and support watercourse crossing remediation efforts

This mobile app supports a data management system by capturing the location and condition of crossings from the general public, industry and roadway owners and regulators.

The ABWCI App is available for download on your iPhone or Android for free. You can submit information on the app by taking pictures and recording information about the watercourse crossing.

Videos: ABWCI App tutorials

Remediation grant program

Dedicated remediation funding for municipalities

The Alberta government established the Watercourse Crossing Remediation Grant Program in 2021 to provide financial and planning assistance to municipalities to remediate and reclaim roadway crossings that are causing erosion, excessive sedimentation and fragmentation of fish habitat in Alberta. The program has $8.5 million ($1.5, $4 and $3 million for 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24).

The following guide document outlines how qualified municipalities can apply for funding. Applications will be considered for 2022-23 funding as they are received. However, applications must be received by 11:59 PM MST on October 14, 2022.

Legislation overview

The WCP covers all crossing owners in the province. Watercourse crossings are subject to regulatory requirements under:

  • Water Act
  • Public Lands Act
  • Code of Practice for Watercourse Crossings
  • Respective authorizations for all relevant legislation

This is not an exhaustive list of all legislation and crossing owners must comply with all provincial and federal statutes applicable to their watercourse crossings.

The legislation requires crossing owners to monitor and report crossings that contravene the acts. Participation in the WCP requires:

  • complete inspections on all crossings within each Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 8 watershed provincially
  • submission of inspection data to the regulator to coordinate remediation planning at a watershed scale

For questions related to the program or the information package, contact us.

Legislation resources


The guiding legislation for the WCP includes:



Connect with the Alberta WCP:

Email: [email protected]
Email (AER): [email protected]

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