Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife protects freshwater and marine habitats using the agency’s authority to provide approvals for construction projects that use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural bed or flow of state waters. The Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) permit is authorized through Chapter 77.55 RCW, and administered through rules in Chapter 220-110 WAC.
Salmon, herring, smelt, sturgeon, crab, and other fish resources rely on near-shore waters for feeding, breeding, and rearing offspring. These same waters, often along shorelines, river banks, or estuarine wetlands, are often in the path of commerce, transportation, logging, farming, and other activities that can have negative impacts on fish resources living in those waters if the projects are designed and constructed to protect fish life.
In 1943, the Washington State Legislature recognized the need to protect fish and fish habitat from the impacts of hydraulic projects – any work that would use, divert, obstruct or change the natural flow or bed of any river or stream or utilize any waters of the state. The HPA statute (now codified in Chapter 77.55 RCW) remains the primary fish and shellfish habitat protection law in Washington State. WDFW is the state agency responsible for implementing the law and issuing HPAs. Over the years, subsequent Legislatures have enacted changes to the Hydraulic Code to clarify, modify, or restrict its scope.
Prior to 1983 no agency rules existed to administer, interpret, or clarify the Hydraulic Code. That changed when the first Hydraulic Code Rules (Chapter 220-110 WAC) were adopted in 1983. These were subsequently modified, with the last comprehensive review and revisions occurring in 1994. New rules for control of aquatic noxious weeds and for mineral prospecting were added in 1997, and 1998, respectively. Most subsequent changes to the Hydraulic Code have not resulted in corresponding changes to the Hydraulic Code Rules.
Today, the Hydraulic Code and the associated Hydraulic Code Rules provide WDFW with a regulatory mechanism to protect fish life and their habitat from the impacts of most hydraulic projects. The Hydraulic Code requires that “in the event that any person or government agency desires to undertake a hydraulic project, the person or government agency shall, before commencing work thereon, secure the approval of the department in the form of a permit as to the adequacy of the means proposed for the protection of fish life.”
An HPA must be obtained from WDFW before work is conducted that uses, obstructs, diverts, or changes the natural flow or bed of state waters. The conditions of an HPA are designed to protect fish, shellfish, and their habitat. Regulated activities include bank protection, dredging, fish passage corrections, flow control structures, overwater structures and pilings, habitat and shoreline modifications, and other activities that affect waters of the state.
WDFW issues approximately 4,000 HPAs annually that cover projects throughout fresh and marine waters of the state.
WDFW offers a wide range of technical assistance that not only helps people implement habitat restoration projects, but also provides advice for designing fish-friendly stream crossings and residential and commercial/industrial development projects.
- Fish Screening & Irrigation Diversion Protection
- Energy Projects Technical Assistance
- Fish Passage or Screening Technical Assistance
- Aquatic Habitat Guidelines
help project developers and reviewers understand the best designs and mechanisms to ensure protection of Washington's aquatic and riparian ecosystems. These guidance documents are organized by topic area, as follows:
- Design of Road Culverts for Fish Passage
- Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines (SHRG) - (beaver dam removal, large woody debris manipulations, spawning substrate augmentation, riparian planting, wetland creation/restoration, enhancement, beach nourishment/contouring, reef creation, eelgrass planting/restoration/enhancement, in-channel and off-channel habitat modifications)
- Integrated Streambank Protection Guidelines (ISPG) (culverts, bridges, conduits, bulkheads, retaining walls, revetments, toe protection, beach nourishment, subsurface drainage, biotechnical bank protection, bank reshaping or re-grading, soil reinforcement, coir and straw logs, integrated approaches)
- Protecting Nearshore Habitat and Functions in Puget Sound - (groins, jetties, breakwaters)
- Land Use Planning for Salmon, Steelhead and Trout: A land use planner’s guide to salmonid habitat protection and recovery
- Draft Fishway Guidelines For Washington State (fish ladders, culverts, weirs, roughened channels, trap and haul)
- Draft Fish Protection Screen Guidelines for Washington State (in-channel, off channel)
WDFW Habitat Biologists are available to help review your project ideas and suggest fish-friendly designs, methods, and/or materials before your designs are finalized. Go HERE for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife HPA Biologist geographical coverage areas and contact information. Use this lookup tool to find the local HPA biologist who can best assist you with pre-permitting design for your hydraulic project and who will process your HPA application.
Project effectiveness monitoring allows DFW to review information on compliance rates and effectiveness of the program so that the program can be adapted to provide better fish protection.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been working to revise the HPA Program during the past two years. We want to improve it so we can routinely deliver regulatory certainty and consistency, improve internal and external efficiencies, ensure transparent decision-making, and improve program effectiveness. These actions will deliver some cost savings for applicants, improve the overall effectiveness of the program, eliminate inconsistencies between the statute and the rules, and enhance a transparent decision making process with our stakeholders.
The proposed changes to the HPA program would implement many of the recommendations made by an HPA Task Force in 2002 and in response to feedback from our customer service survey program, Tribes, and the regulated and non-regulated communities. Many of these program changes can only occur through revising our current rules.
We initiated this rule change a few years ago, but needed to delay the effort due to budget reductions to the program and difficulties associated with developing a Habitat Conservation Plan for the HPA program. WDFW has discontinued HCP development, and we are now resuming rule changes that will improve the application process, resolve several inconsistencies between the 1994 rules and statutory changes made in recent years, and bring the rules in line with current science.
For more information on the proposed rule change, go to the HPA Rulemaking website.
HPA application fees were adopted by the Washington legislature in 2012 (RCW 77.55.321), and went into effect July 10, 2012. Most HPA applications require payment of a $150 application fee before DFW can process it. There are some exemptions from the application fee, including forest practices, projects on farm and agricultural lands, mineral prospecting and mining, pamphlet HPAs, and HPAs issued under interagency agreements. The HPA fee will not apply to minor project modifications (e.g., to work windows), but will apply to applicant-requested modifications that result in the issuance of a new HPA, provided the original HPA was subject to the application fee. DFW has established a template contract/agreement that higher volume customers can use to apply a billing account to pay for HPA fees.
DFW is also developing a new web-based permitting system to track HPA applications and permits. When activated, the new system is anticipated to provide:
- Online application submittal,
- Full access to application materials and process status,
- Potential to pay online.
We anticipate that this will reduce long-term costs to the state while supporting private sector jobs. These system upgrades are funded through HPA fee revenue.
DFW has formally discontinued all work and contracts associated with the pursuit of a federal Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the HPA Program. For more information, see the HPA HCP Archive.
In addition to rule making, DFW is currently working with DNR to integrate HPA provisions into Forest Practices permits.