The overwhelming majority of Washington’s
fish and wildlife species depend on aquatic and riparian ecosystems for
all or part of their life cycle. This rich and diverse fauna, and the
flora on which they depend, are irreplaceable elements of Washington’s
natural heritage and are the basis for much of the state’s cultural heritage,
economy, and quality of life. Activities associated with our enjoyment
and development of land surrounding these aquatic habitats have destroyed,
degraded, and fragmented many of these marine, freshwater, and riparian
ecosystems throughout Washington State. Over time, these adverse impacts
have resulted in the federal listing of many marine, freshwater, and riparian
animal species as “Endangered” or “Threatened” under the federal Endangered
Species Act, and the state's wildlife protection legislation.
Governor Gary Locke and Washington State agencies adopted a statewide
strategy to recover salmon in 1999. At the heart of the strategy to address
habitat is a bottom-up approach of involving landowners and citizens by
providing incentives and technical assistance in salmon protection/recovery
initiatives. In the 1999-2001 biennium, Washington State distributed nearly
$50,000,000 to more than 300 salmon protection/recovery projects sponsored
by local governments, watershed groups, County Conservation Districts,
Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups, volunteer groups, private citizens,
and others. There is an urgent need for increased technical guidance to
ensure that these local efforts are strategic, address the source of a
problem and not just a symptom, are the best use of limited funds, and
are based on best available science that can be consistently and effectively
applied across the landscape.
The Aquatic Habitat Guidelines program is designed to help provide this
technical assistance. In 1999, the Washington State Departments of Fish
and Wildlife (WDFW), Ecology (Ecology), and Transportation (WSDOT) were
charged to develop these Aquatic Habitat Guidelines employing an integrated
approach to marine, freshwater, and riparian habitat protection and restoration.
In 2001, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and the United
States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) became participating agencies
in the program. Aquatic Habitat Guidelines is a technical assistance program
that helps people do the right thing for aquatic natural resources. It
is not a program that relies on regulation to protect public resources.
Aquatic Habitat Guidelines do not replace existing regulatory requirements,
though they are designed in part to provide technical guidance supporting
regulatory streamlining. Current agency policies, rules, and regulations
may not support all of the recommendations made within these guidelines.
If this is the case, the current policies, rules, and regulations supersede
the recommendations in the guidelines.
The overarching goal of the program is the development of technical assistance
for proper management of activities affecting Washington’s marine, freshwater,
and riparian ecosystems to assist in the protection and restoration of
fully functioning aquatic and riparian habitat. Species generally do not
decline because of conscious, deliberate actions by people to do them
harm. Instead, they become endangered or threatened through poor planning,
and lack of understanding about alternatives that could avoid or minimize
ecological impacts. The Aquatic Habitat Guidelines will help concerned
and willing citizens to do the right things for aquatic and riparian ecosystems
in their neighborhoods and watersheds.
Objectives of the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines program include:
- Make the expertise of professional resource managers available to
a wide variety of organizations and citizens who are seeking assistance
in habitat protection and restoration activities.
- Streamline local, state, and federal regulatory review of activities
involving aquatic environments by providing guidelines based on best
- Provide a scientific basis for any future changes to current local
policies or activities associated with aquatic resource in the state.
- Maintain ongoing reviews and updates to the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines
documents to reflect experience and emerging science and technical practice.
Benefits of the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines program include:
- Addresses habitat requirements and guides recovery projects for marine,
freshwater, and riparian animal species listed under the federal Endangered
- Facilitates consistent application of good science and technical practice
for project designs, construction, and operations affecting aquatic
- Increases the success rate and enhances the worthwhile expenditure
of public funds on protection and recovery projects.
- Streamlines and reduces costs for environmental review and permitting
for activities that affect marine, freshwater, and riparian ecosystems.
- Provides a single set of benchmarks for evaluating and prioritizing
projects affecting aquatic and riparian habitats.
The guidelines documents produced under the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines
program will be issued in a series of manuals written by professional
resource engineers and managers addressing many aspects of aquatic and
riparian habitat protection and restoration. The target audiences range
from local, state, and federal agencies to elected officials, engineering
consultants and designers, volunteer restoration groups, and landowners.
The guidelines will facilitate the consistent application of good science
and practices for project designs, construction, and operations affecting
aquatic systems. Each volume is to be based on a survey of current best
science and technical practice surveyed in topical state-of-the-knowledge
white papers or a thorough literature review. These have been written
by recognized experts and built on a set of guiding principles developed
by professional resource managers, engineers, and other practioners.
The guidelines will include background science and literature, policy
issues, site and vicinity environmental assessment procedures, project
design processes, project design standards, project design details, and
case studies that highlight site-specific issues and will address ecosystem-based
strategies for aquatic and riparian habitat restoration and protection.
The guidelines will provide nuts and bolts "how to" information for volunteers,
planners, and designers of habitat restoration projects as well as for
designers, builders, and operators of facilities and structures that effect
marine, freshwater, and riparian habitats. It is intended that the guidelines
will support salmon and other aquatic habitat restoration projects, provide
additional consistency in permitting of habitat restoration projects and
other in-stream projects across the state, and provide a scientific basis
for any future changes to current policies or regulations governing aquatic
resource and habitat management in the state.
The Aquatic Habitat Guidelines program Steering Committee Agencies anticipate
utilizing the program in the following ways. WDFW is using the white papers
and guiding principles produced as part of the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines
program to ensure programmatic and regulatory consistency and as a source
for the best available science for the development of agency policies
and regulations. At WDFW, the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines will serve as
a tool to help local watershed groups, lead entities, and agency biologists
plan and implement salmon recovery projects based on good science. In
addition, the Aquatic Habitat Guidelines will serve as best available
science and technical guidance in the review of Hydraulic Project Approval
applications for projects requiring WDFW authorization. At the Department
of Ecology the guidelines will become an integral part of implementing
the Shoreline Management Act through incorporation into the Shoreline
Management Guidebook. Additionally, all Aquatic Habitat Guidelines are
incorporated into the state's Water Quality Management Plan to control
non-point source pollution. At the Department of Transportation, the guidelines
will help design and implement mitigation for Streambank impacts related
to construction and maintenance projects. In addition, the guidelines
will promote and enhance salmon and watershed recovery work as a part
of transportation facility design statewide. At the United States Army
Corps of Engineers, the guidelines will be used in the evaluation of proposed
activities. In addition, they will become central criterion for activities
to be authorized in forthcoming Programmatic Consultations under the Endangered
- Guidelines for Salmonid Habitat Protection
and Restoration - This paper was presented at the Society
of Wetland Scientists, Pacific Northwest 2000 Chapter Meeting held in
Bellingham, Washington May 10-12, 2000. The paper provides an overview
of the Guidelines for Salmonid Habitat Protection and Restoration program
as of Spring-Summer 2000. The project has changed substantially in the
intervening time period, and is now recognized as the Aquatic Habitat
Guidelines program. As a result, this document provides historical information
pertaining to the original intent and structure of the program, and
should only be considered a general, albeit outdated, reference. (PDF
To help ensure that the guidelines drafted as part of the Aquatic Habitat
Guidelines program are comprehensive and contain the best available scientific
information, they are reviewed in workshops that bring together regional
experts, users, and regulators to discuss and critique the documents.
Input from the workshops, as well as written comments, are reviewed and
considered for incorporation into revisions of the guidelines documents.
In addition, opportunities to participate in guidelines development through
scoping, workshops, and review of draft guidance materials will be available
to all interested parties. Comments may also be emailed to AHGComments@dfw.wa.gov.
Comments will be reviewed and considered for incorporation into the final