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


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hydraulic project?
A “hydraulic project” is construction work or other activities conducted in or near state waters that will “use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or fresh waters of the state.” (Section 11 of RCW 77.55.011)

What is an HPA?
An Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) is a permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that you need to conduct certain types of work activities in or near the water (hydraulic projects).  “Hydraulic Project Approval” and “HPA” are legally defined in section 53 of WAC 220-110-020

Do I need an HPA?
Most types of hydraulic projects require an HPA.  These include installing, repairing, or replacing piers, ramps, and/or floats (docks); repairing or replacing bulkheads; and cattle crossings of streams on agricultural lands.  Chapter 220-110 WAC includes more examples of hydraulic projects that require an HPA.

Some types of hydraulic projects do not need an HPA.  These include aquaculture farms, removing derelict (lost) fishing gear or pots, and installing or repairing tide gates.

WDFW developed two pamphlet HPAs: Gold and Fish for mineral prospecting and Aquatic Plants and Fish for removing or controlling aquatic plants, to cover the most common types of these two activities.  If you can follow the timing, location, and equipment restrictions described in the pamphlet HPAs, you may use them as your HPA for that project.  There is no fee to obtain or use a pamphlet HPA as your permit.  If you want to work at a different time, in a different location, or use different equipment than the Gold and Fish or Aquatic Plants and Fish pamphlet allows, you will need to apply for separate, written HPA.

If you are not sure if you need an HPA, contact the WDFW Habitat Biologist for your location.  Click here for the names, coverage areas, and contact information for Habitat Biologists or call the Habitat Program at (360) 902-2534.

How do I get an HPA?
These are the general steps to apply for a written HPA.  This page and section 2 of RCW 77.55.021 describe what is needed for a complete HPA application.

  • Complete and submit the online HPA application (APPS) or JARPA form.  You may be able to use a simplified HPA application.  Each of these websites has more information.
  • Include complete project plans, including proof of SEPA compliance.
  • There is a $150 application fee for WDFW to review and process most HPA applications.  RCW 77.55.321 lists the project types that are exempt from the application fee.
  • WDFW issues most HPAs within 45 days after we receive your complete application.
  • See more information on HPAs.

You can view or print out the Gold and Fish or Aquatic Plants and Fishpamphlet HPA free or call (360) 902-2534 or email to ask that WDFW mail you one.

It is best for you to work with the WDFW Habitat Biologist for your location while you are planning your project, before you conduct the work.  There is no fee to work with a biologist, although most hydraulic projects require a $150 application fee when you submit your application for an HPA.

What if I have an emergency and need a permit right away?
If you need to conduct your proposed project immediately because of an emergency (defined in section 27 of WAC 220-110-020), do one of these:

During normal business hours

Contact your local Habitat Biologist

If you cannot reach your local Habitat Biologist

Contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife office

Outside of normal business hours

Call the Emergency HPA Hotline at (360) 902-2537

“Emergency HPAs” (see section 12 of RCW 77.55.021) can be issued as quickly as the same day if there is an immediate threat to people, property, or the environment.  WDFW will bill you for the $150 application fee when it sends you the written emergency HPA. Proof of SEPA compliance is not required for an emergency HPA.

What is SEPA?
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) (Chapter 43.21C RCW) requires state and local governments within the state to conduct environmental reviews of certain proposed projects. Most people who apply for an HPA must submit documentation with their application showing that they have complied with SEPA.  

  • SEPA review is usually conducted by the local government (city or county) planning or permitting department.
  • SEPA is a way to identify possible environmental impacts that may result from governmental decisions such as issuing permits.
  • Certain proposed projects described in Washington Administrative Codes (WACs) 197-11-800, 197-11-835, and 197-11-840 are exempt because they are unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental impact.
  • Pamphlet HPAs have already undergone SEPA review; you do not need to provide additional proof of SEPA compliance if you will work under a pamphlet HPA.
  • See the WDFW SEPA page and Frequently Asked Questions about SEPA.

How are HPA applications processed?
Customer service specialists and biologists will review your application to make sure it contains everything we need to process it.  If the application is incomplete they will request further information from the applicant or authorized agent. If the application is complete, they will assign the application to a WDFW Habitat Biologist for processing.  The biologist:

  • Will work with you to help achieve your objective while protecting fish, shellfish, and their habitat.
  • Will determine the most appropriate dates during the year for your project to be constructed. Protective work windows list dates when migrating, spawning, or incubating fish are least likely to be within the project site.
  • May visit the project site and try to meet with you to review fish habitat needs and how the project may affect fish life or their habitat.  

When will I get my HPA?
WDFW issues most HPAs within 45 days after we receive your complete application, including payment of or exemption from the $150 application fee, and proof of SEPA compliance, if required.

What will my HPA require?
If your proposed project might adversely affect fish or their habitat, the HPA may be approved with certain conditions or limitations, such as timing and construction methods, to minimize harm. If your project cannot be constructed without significant adverse impacts to fish or their habitat, your application may be denied.

How do I contact the Habitat Biologist for my location?
Click here for the names, coverage areas, and contact information for WDFW Habitat Biologists or call the Habitat Program at (360) 902-2534.

What other permits do I need?
The Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) can give you information about environmental permits in Washington.  Call 1-800-917-0043 or go to to find out which environmental permits are required for your proposed activity.  You should consult with ORIA or your local government agencies early in the planning process so that you know about all of the permits required for your work.

What if I don’t agree with some or any parts of an HPA, or a denial?
Contact the Habitat Biologist who issued the HPA (named on the HPA) and explain 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 reason why 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 questions about appeals, contact WDFW’s HPA Appeals Coordinator at (360) 902-2260.

What is an “expedited HPA”?
WDFW may issue expedited HPAs for projects when normal processing time would result in significant hardship for the applicant or unacceptable damage to the environment AND when the situation meets the definition of “imminent danger” in section 12 of RCW 77.55.011.  WDFW must issue xxpedited HPAs  in writing within 15 days of the request for a permit.  Proof of SEPA compliance is not required for an expedited HPA.  Contact the Habitat Biologist for your location for more information.

What is “streamlined processing” for Fish Habitat Enhancement Projects?
Fish habitat enhancement projects must meet the specific criteria in RCW 77.55.181.  Projects approved under this law do not require local permits or proof of SEPA compliance, but do require approval from the local government.  You must apply for streamlined processing of fish habitat enhancement projects  through APPS or by including a fish habitat enhancement JARPA form.  Contact the Habitat Biologist for your location for more information.

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 allows WDFW to issue fines of up to $100 per day for violation of any provisions of RCW 77.55.021.  Additionally, under section 2 of RCW 9A.20.010, you will be subject to penalties for a gross misdemeanor.
It is best for you to work with a WDFW Habitat Biologist while you are planning your project, before you conduct the work.  There is no fee to work with a biologist, although most hydraulic projects require a $150 application fee when you submit your application for an HPA.  Contact the Habitat Biologist for your location for more information.

Why does WDFW care if I work in or near the water?
Fish and shellfish require certain amounts of high-quality water.  Each species and life stage has different habitat requirements (including temperature).  Construction activity in or near the water can kill or harm fish or shellfish directly or by damaging or destroying their habitat. Damaged or destroyed habitat can continue to cause lost production of fish and shellfish for as long as the habitat remains altered.

What law gives WDFW the authority to regulate work that may impact fish life?
In 1943, the Washington State Legislature passed a state law now known as the "Hydraulic Code" (Chapter 77.55 RCW).  This law gave WDFW the authority to approve proposed construction projects if the projects adequately protect fish life.  

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 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 Hydraulic Code's purpose is to ensure that construction projects control 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 while minimizing adverse impacts to fish or shellfish.

What other information is available?
WDFW adopted agency rules (Chapter 220-110 WAC) 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. You can get copies from any Department of Fish and Wildlife office. Department regional offices may also have a list of local contacts to help you determine what other permits may be required. The Governor’s Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance can help you determine what additional environmental permits you will need before conducting your project The department’s Habitat Conservation, 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 rule-making process.

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 Habitat Biologist for assistance.

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 about the other fish?

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