Are you occupying a property near a lake or watercourse (Gatineau river, creek)?

Here is what you need to know!

The Municipality of Chelsea needs your help in preserving the health of the shorelines of our lakes and watercourses! The Municipality will inspect the waterfront of the lakes and Gatineau river within Chelsea during the summers of 2016 and 2017. Below you will find an explanation of the various roles of the shoreline, applicable by-laws, tools for revegetation of the shoreline as well as the inspection grids that will be used.

Shorelines are essential to the health of lakes and watercourses. Among others, they filter run-off water, reduce the proliferation of green-blue algue (cyanobacteria), reduce erosion and stabilize soils. It is therefore imperative to maintain a healthy natural shoreline!


Here are a few simple actions to help keep your shoreline healthy and natural:

·         Cease the maintenance of vegetation (mowing and clearing) in the shoreline allowing indigenous species to (re)grow; and

·         Revegetalize the shoreline by buying indigenous herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees.

Please note you must allow more than one growth season to see durable results!


In the sections below you will find more information on:

By-laws applicable for the protection of shorelines?

In Quebec the Protection Policy for Lakeshores, Riverbanks, Littoral Zones and Floodplains (PPLRLZF) proposes various protection measures that must be adopted par the MRC and the Municipalities. For more information concerning this provincial policy you may consult the website of the Ministry of sustainable development, environment and the fight against climate change (MDDELCC).

In Chelsea there are two main regulations in effect that aim to protect the waterfront and littoral areas: the "Règlement de Contrôle Intérimaire" which aims to reinforce applicable by-laws for the protection of shorelines or lakes and watercourses (RCI) n° 137-09 of the MRC des Collines and the Zonage By-law n°636-05 of the Municipality of Chelsea. These by-laws concern the lakes, the Gatineau river as well as all watercourses whether they have a regular or intermittent flow.

In summary, the RCI n° 137-09 (Descriptive pamphlet and the complete by-law) stipulates that a 5 meter zone (depth) of natural vegetation including three layers: herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees; from the natural high water mark (NHWM) must be conserved and/or revegetalized. Therefore, generally, all constructions, structures and work are forbidden within this zone. The resident may however maintain an water access of a maximum width of five (5) meters. Zonage By-law n°636-05 (section 4.12) aims to protect the shore meaning the zone between 0 m and 15 m from the natural high water mark. In general, all constructions, structures and work are forbidden within this zone. However, there are some exceptions to this rule within the shoreline (section 4.12) and littoral (section 4.12.6) areas. Residents may maintain their lawn within the 5 m – 15 m zone. In addition, Article 4.12.7 contains pertinent information relating to dock structures.

What is the Natural High Water Mark (NHWM)?

The natural high water mark is determined using botanical and physical factors. This line indicates the area where the water is at its highest over two years and is used by the MRC des Collines and the Municipality of Chelsea to apply by-laws. Below you will find a small figure demonstrating this concept. This grid provides more information pertaining to the criteria used in the determination of the NHWM. *The inspectors of the Municipality of Chelsea will install a flag and/or ribbon outlining the required five (5) meter band of natural vegetation from the NHWM when possible.


Diagram adapted from: MINISTÈRE DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE, DE L’ENVIRONNEMENT ET DE LA LUTTE CONTRE LES CHANGEMENTS CLIMATIQUES, 2015. Guide d’interprétation, Politique de protection des rives, du littoral et des plaines inondables, Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques du Québec, Direction des politiques de l’eau, figure 11, p. 35.

How to create a compliant shoreline


A picture is worth a thousand words… The image below indicated the main elements to consider to insure that your shoreline contributes to the preservation of the environment and is compliant with the applicable regulations.


1)   Natural high water mark (By-law n°636-05, Article 4.12.1)

 High-water mark The high-water mark is the line used to delimit the littoral zone from the shores of lakes and rivers.

The high-water mark is located at the natural high-water line, i.e.:

  • At the spot where conditions change from a predominance of aquatic plants to a predominance of non aquatic plants, or, in the absence of aquatic plants, the line where non-aquatic plants stop as they approach the watercourse. The aquatic plant group consists of all hydrophytic plants, including submerged plants, plants with floating leaves, emergent plants, and emerged herbaceous and ligneous plants characteristic of marshes and swamps on watercourses;
  • Where a water retention structure exists, at the maximum operating elevation of the waterworks for the upstream portion of the watercourse;
  • Where a legally erected retaining wall exists, from the top of the structure;


A) 5 meter protected zone

2) Docks (By-law n°636-05, Article 4.12.7

  • Must be built with inert materials (untreated wood : larch, cedar, etc.), plastic and/or aluminium. A permit must be acquired for all docks.
  • Total of all docks must not exceed a total surface of 20 m2.
  • Boat houses are not allowed. (Boathouses that have been dubbed grandfathered may be maintained.)
  • Consult the Article 4.12.7 of the Zonage By-law n°636-05 for more information concerning maximum lenghts and minimum distances for attached and detached docks according to your lake or watercourse.


3) Access to water – By-law n°636-05, Article 4.12.5.a.5 et 4.12.5.a.6

  • A water access of a maximum width of 5 meters is allowed.
  • If the slope exceeds 30% steps are allowed.


4) Encroachment – (RCI n°137-09, Article 14.5 – available in french only)

  • For already existing residences (grandfathered or permit) within the 5 m protection zone, a maintenance band of 2 meters is allowed surrounding the building.


5) Natural vegetation of the shoreline - (RCI n°137-09- available in french only) 

  • A zone of 5 meters from the NHWM must be kept natural and include herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees.
  • If the shoreline has been cleared, mowed, deforested, etc. they must be returned to their original state using the most natural methods possible for that shoreline.


B) 15 meters from the NHWM

6) Fences– By-law n°636-05, Article 4.12.5.c.1

  • Fences are allowed at a distance of more than 5 meters. A permit is required.

7)  Lawn mowing and maintenance is allowed.


C) More than 15 meters from the NHWM

8) Main and secondary buildings, structure and constructions are allowed once a permit has been acquired.


Remember to verify if a permit is required to conduct work on your property !

Pilot-Project : Image capture of shorelines

Pilot-project: Image capture of Kingsmere Lake Shoreline by an unmanned aerial-vehicle (UAV)

This document was prepared on September 15th, 2016 by the Planning and Sustainable Development Department of the Municipality of Chelsea (in collaboration with Duwatech)