WDFW LogoWashington Department of Fish & Wildlife
WDFW LogoLicensing & Permits

For more information on the Hydraulic Permit Application (HPA) Program, please contact:
WDFW Habitat Program
(360) 902-2534


Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does the Department of Fish and Wildlife Care If I Work Near the Water?

All fish and shellfish have special habitat requirements related to water quality and quantity (including temperature) and to the physical features of the stream or body of water in which they live.  For example, salmon and steelhead spawn and live for a time in a stream before going to the ocean.  They require an ample supply of clean, cool, well-oxygenated water.  Adults need clean gravel in which to spawn and juvenile fish require in-stream cover such as tree parts, boulders, or over-hanging banks to hide from predators.  Vegetated stream banks shade the water from the warming effects of the sun.  Insects drop off overhanging vegetation and provide food.  When juvenile salmon or steelhead enter saltwater, their habitat requirements change.  During this critical transition period, they must have shallow, near-shore waters where they can migrate, school, feed, and seek protection from larger fish.  Each species of fish and shellfish has similar, yet unique requirements.  They have become adapted to and require these natural conditions as a result of the 10,000 years of evolution since the last ice age.  The degradation of any one of the elements of their required habitat results in reduced numbers of fish and shellfish.  Construction activity in or near the water has the potential to kill fish or shellfish directly.  More importantly, this activity can also alter the habitat that fish and shellfish require.  Direct damage or loss of habitat results in direct loss of fish and shellfish production.  Direct killing of fish or shellfish is usually a one-time loss.  Damaged habitat, however, can continue to cause lost production of fish and shellfish for as long as the habitat remains altered. 

What Law Gives The Department of Fish and Wildlife the Authority to Regulate Work That Impacts Fish Life?

The state Legislature gave the Department of Fish and Wildlife the responsibility of preserving, protecting, and perpetuating all fish and shellfish resources of the state.  To assist in achieving that goal, the state Legislature in 1943 passed a state law now known as the "Hydraulic Code" (Chapter 77.55 RCW).  Although the law has been amended occasionally since it was originally enacted, the basic authority has been retained.

What Does the Law Say?

The law requires that any person, organization, or government agency wishing to conduct any construction activity that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of state waters must do so under the terms of a permit (called the Hydraulic Project Approval, or HPA) issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  State waters include all marine waters and fresh waters of the state, except those watercourses that are entirely artificial, such as irrigation ditches, canals and storm water run-off devices.

What is the Purpose of the Law?

Damage or loss of fish and shellfish habitat results in direct loss of fish and shellfish production.  The enactment of Chapter 77.55 RCW was recognition by the state Legislature that virtually any construction that affects the bed or flow of the waters of the state has the potential to cause habitat damage.  The law's purpose is to see that needed construction prevents damage to the state's fish, shellfish, and their habitat.  By applying for and following the provisions of the HPA issued under Chapter 77.55 RCW, most construction activities that affect the bed or flow of state waters can be allowed with little or no adverse impact on fish or shellfish.

What Types of Activities are Subject to the Law?

The major types of activities in freshwater requiring an HPA include, but are not limited to: stream bank protection; construction or repair of bridges, piers, and docks; pile driving; channel change or realignment; conduit (pipeline) crossing; culvert installation; dredging; gravel removal; pond construction; placement of outfall structures; log, log jam, or debris removal; installation or maintenance of water diversions; and mineral prospecting.  Major saltwater activities requiring an HPA include, but are not limited to: construction of bulkheads, fills, boat launches, piers, dry docks, artificial reefs, dock floats, and marinas; placement of utility lines; pile driving; and dredging.  It is important to emphasize that the above are only examples of major types of activities requiring an HPA and that any construction activity that uses, diverts, changes, or obstructs the bed or flow of state waters requires an HPA.

What Other Information is Available?

A set of agency rules (Chapter 220-110 WAC) has been adopted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to guide administration of Chapter 77.55 RCW.  Additionally, "Aquatic Plants and Fish" and "Gold and Fish" pamphlets contain rules for aquatic plant control and removal, and mineral prospecting activities, respectively.  Besides serving as the permit for the activities that comply with them, these pamphlets contain helpful technical assistance information.  Copies can be acquired from any Department of Fish and Wildlife office.  Department regional offices may also have a list of local contacts to assist in determining what other permits may be required. The Office of Regulatory Assistance can help you determine what additional environmental permits you will need before conducting your project (http://www.ora.wa.gov/resources/permitting.asp)  The department’s Habitat Restoration & Protection website contains links to numerous technical assistance documents that may help you plan your project.  WDFW is revising the rules that govern hydraulic projects and how they may be conducted.  You may wish to participate in that process [link to rulemaking page]. 

How Do I Apply For an HPA?

The form to apply for an HPA is called a Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA).  JARPA is an application form that consolidates fourteen permit application forms for federal, state, and local permits.  JARPA is used to apply for an HPA and also for Water Quality Certifications or Modifications from the Department of Ecology, Aquatic Resource Use Authorizations from the Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers permits, and Shoreline Management Act Permits from participating local city or county agencies.  The current JARPA form can be accessed at www.epermitting.wa.gov.  The link to the JARPA form contains the complete JARPA packet including--JARPA Application Form, JARPA Instruction A: Completing JARPA, Instruction B: Help and Guidance, JARPA completed example, and notice of SEPA determination (that must be included with your JARPA).  JARPA forms are available from any Department of Fish and Wildlife office, as well as from any Department of EcologyArmy Corps of Engineers, or participating local government offices.  If you choose to obtain and complete a hard copy of JARPA be sure your JARPA packet includes Instruction A and B.  When requesting applications for all but emergency HPAs you must submit the JARPA to the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia.  If submitting more than 30 pages of application materials you must also include digital copies of all documents.  The JARPA website contains specific instructions on how to complete and submit applications.  These instructions may change at times to enhance our permit streamlining effort--so be sure to obtain and review the most current JARPA Instructions.  Most applications for new HPAs or modifications of existing HPAs must include payment of the $150 application fee.  Payment of application fees must be by personal, business, or cashier’s check, or by charging to a billing account established with the department.  If you apply for multiple HPAs each year and wish to establish a billing account with the department, you may contact the department’s Habitat Program at (360) 902-2534.  The department will not accept credit cards or cash payments.  The following projects are exempt from the application fee:

  • Pamphlet permits
  • Mineral prospecting
  • Forest practices
  • Projects on farm and agricultural land, as that term is defined in RCW 84.34.020
  • Projects reviewed by a department biologist on contract with the applicant
  • Projects applied for prior to July 10, 2012, and modifications of permits issued to those projects
  • Projects and work conducted wholly landward of the ordinary high water line

If submitting more than 30 pages of application materials you must also include digital copies of all documents.  You must submit applications for all but emergency permits to the following address or email address:

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
PO Box 43234
Olympia WA 98504-3234
Email: hpaapplications@dfw.wa.gov

You may submit requests for emergency HPAs to regional offices or directly to the biologist.  You do not need to pay $150 at the time you request an emergency HPA.  The department will bill you for the application fee when it sends you the written emergency HPA. 

Do I Need to Include Anything with my Application?

As contained within JARPA; must include general plans for project, complete plans and specifications for the proposed construction or work within the mean higher high water line in salt water or within the ordinary high water line in fresh water, and complete plans and specifications for the proper protection of fish life.  See What Constitutes Complete Plans and Specifications When Applying for an HPA.  Applications for streamlined processing of fish habitat enhancement projects must additionally include the application form for these projects (attached to the JARPA) that is available at http://www.epermitting.wa.gov.  Unless exempt, applications for new HPAs must be include payment of the $150 application fee.

Is the Decision on my Permit Dependent on Anything Besides the Information in my Application?

State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) compliance must be completed prior to review of your application and issuance of the HPA by WDFW.  SEPA compliance is not required for an expedited or an emergency HPA.

How Do I Know What Other Permits May be Required?

The Office of Regulatory Assistance provides statewide environmental permit information.  By calling 1-800-917-0043, or by going online at http://www.ora.wa.gov/ you can find out which environmental permits are required for your proposed activity.  The Office of Regulatory Assistance can also assist in determining if your local government agency will accept the JARPA form or if another application may be required.  You should consult with the Office of Regulatory Assistance or local government agencies requiring permits early in the planning process to ensure that you are aware of all necessary permits required for your work.

If I Have a Forest Practices Application, Do I Still Need to Apply for an HPA?

No.  The Forest Practices Application serves as the HPA application as well.  But just having a valid Forest Practices Application does not mean that “any work that affects … the bed or flow” is necessarily approved under an HPA.  Contact the local Department of Natural Resources Forester and/or Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist (if known) for assistance. 

How Are HPA Applications Processed?

HPA applications are assigned to a Department of Fish and Wildlife Area Habitat Biologist.  In most cases, the biologist will visit the project site and will try to meet with you to point out fish habitat needs and how the project may affect that habitat.  The biologist will work with you to help achieve your objective while protecting fish, shellfish, and their habitat.  The biologist will determine the most appropriate time for your project to take place.  Timing is critical for the protection of fish life.  One tool the biologist will use is a table of times when spawning and incubating salmonids are least likely to be within Washington state freshwaters.  Because this table will change as the department collects new information, you should check it each time you are contemplating applying for an HPA.  It may have changed since the last time you applied.

When are salmonids likely to be within Washington fresh waters?

Download: Times When Spawning or Incubating Salmonids are Least Likely to be Within Washington State Freshwaters (Updated May 28, 2010)

What Will an HPA Contain?

If the project as proposed will adversely affect fish habitat, it may be approved with certain conditions attached, such as timing and construction methods, to prevent damage.  If the project cannot be accomplished without significant adverse impacts on fish, shellfish, or their habitat, it may be denied.  Of the approximately 4,000 applications received per year, less than one percent are denied.

How Do I Determine Which Biologist Will Process My Application?

You can find the name and contact information of the Area Habitat Biologist that likely will process your application by referring to the online list at /conservation/habitat/ahb/ or by calling the Olympia Habitat Program office at (360) 902-2534.

How Long Does it Take to Get an HPA?

While the Hydraulic Code allows 45 days to act on your application, most are processed within 30 days or less of receipt of a complete application, payment of, or exemption from the $150 application fee, and compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA Chapter 43.12C RCW).  A complete application consists of (1) general plans and specifications for the project, (2) complete plans and specifications for work within the ordinary high water line, and (3) complete plans and specifications for the proper protection of fish life.  An Area Habitat Biologist can assist you in determining the location of the ordinary high water line, and the necessary steps to protect fish life from the impacts of your project.

What if I don’t agree with some parts or any of the HPA?

Contact the Area Habitat Biologist who issued the HPA (named on the HPA) and describe your concerns.  If your concerns are not resolved, you can file an informal or formal appeal within 30 days after you received the HPA.  Because protection of fish life is the only ground upon which approval of an HPA may be denied or conditioned, only issues pertaining to protection of fish life can be considered during the appeal process. 

The informal and formal appeal rules are summarized at the bottom of each HPA.  The actual rules for informal and formal appeals are listed in WACs 220-110-340 and 220-110-350.  If you have further questions, contact WDFW’s HPA Appeals Coordinator at (360) 902-2260. 

What If I Have An Emergency?

RCW 77.55.021 (8) provides for emergency situations when an immediate threat to property or life exists.  In such cases, immediate verbal approval can be obtained for work necessary to alleviate the emergency.  A "hotline" telephone number is available for emergency calls during non-working hours.  That number is (360) 902-2537.  During normal hours, contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife office.  You are not required to pay the $150 application fee until after the emergency HPA has been issued in writing.  You will be billed for that application fee.

What if I Have an Emergency and Can't Get in Touch With a Biologist? Can I Do the Work Anyway?

No.  RCW 77.55.021 (1) requires you to get a permit from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife before doing any work on a hydraulic project.  In the event of an emergency during working hours contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife office.  During non-working hours call the “hotline” telephone number at (360) 902-2537

If an Emergency Declaration is Made, Do I Still Need an HPA from WDFW?

Yes.  RCW 77.55.021 (8) states: “The department, through its authorized representatives, shall issue immediately, upon request, oral approval for a stream crossing, or work to remove any obstructions, repair existing structures, restore streambanks, protect fish life, or protect property threatened by the stream or a change in the stream flow without the necessity of obtaining a written permit prior to commencing work.  Conditions of the emergency oral permit must be established by the department and reduced to writing within thirty days and complied with as provided for in this chapter.”

What is the Difference Between an Emergency and an Expedited HPA?

An emergency HPA can be issued for projects meeting the definition of emergency in RCW 77.55.011, which states: “emergency means an immediate threat to life, the public, property, or of environmental degradation.” Emergency HPAs can be issued verbally immediately upon request, with written follow-up, and an emergency can be declared only by the governor, the county legislative authority, or by WDFW.  An expedited HPA is one issued for projects where normal processing would result in significant hardship for the applicant or unacceptable damage to the environment and where it meets the definition of imminent danger in RCW 77.55.011, which states: “imminent danger means a threat by weather, water flow, or other natural conditions that is likely to occur within sixty days of a request for a permit application.” Expedited HPAs must be issued in writing within 15 days of the request for a permit.  Neither emergency nor expedited projects are required to comply with the requirements of SEPA.

What Will Happen if I Do Work Without Getting a Permit from WDFW?

You will be subject to enforcement and prosecution.  RCW 77.55.291 states, “the department may levy civil penalties of up to one hundred dollars per day for violation of any provisions of RCW 77.55.021.”  Additionally, under RCW 9A.20.010 (2) you would be subject to penalties for a gross misdemeanor "(a) Any crime punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than ninety days, or by both such fine and imprisonment is a misdemeanor.  Whenever the performance of any act is prohibited by any statute, and no penalty for the violation of such statute is imposed, the committing of such act shall be a misdemeanor.  (b) All crimes other than felonies and misdemeanors are gross misdemeanors."

Is the Streamlined Processing for Fish Habitat Enhancement Projects the Same as an Expedited HPA?

No.  Fish enhancement projects approved under RCW 77.55.181 differ from emergency or expedited projects.  Projects applied for under this RCW must meet specific criteria to show that they are appropriate fish enhancement projects.  With the exception that approved projects under this RCW are exempted from the requirements of SEPA and local permitting, WDFW processes applications for fish enhancement projects in the usual manner – processing w/in 45 days, and project may or may not be approved upon review of a complete application. 

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Offices
Eastern Region (1)
2315 North Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA 99216-1566
(509) 892-1001
North Puget Sound Region (4)
16018 Mill Creek Boulevard
Mill Creek, WA 98012-1296
(425) 775-1311
North Central Region (2)
1550 Alder Street NW
Ephrata, WA 98823-9699
(509) 754-4624
Southwest Region (5)
2108 SE Grand Boulevard
Vancouver, WA 98661
(360) 696-6211
South Central Region (3)
1701 S 24th Ave
Yakima, WA 98902-5720
(509) 575-2740
Coastal Region (6)
48 Devonshire Road
Montesano, WA 98563-9618
(360) 249-4628