Most people who apply for a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) must submit documentation with their application showing that their project complies with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), a law adopted by the state Legislature in 1971.
SEPA reviews are usually conducted by local planning or permitting agencies to determine the environmental consequences of a project before work begins. The law also give the “lead agency” responsible for conducting the review the authority to deny or condition projects identified as having significant adverse effects on the environment.
A typical SEPA review takes about 14 days. If an HPA is the only permit required, such as for dredging a stream or beaver pond maintenance, WDFW can be the lead agency.
Certain types of projects are exempt from SEPA review. They include:
- Emergency HPAs and fish-enhancement projects.
- Pamphlet HPAs such as “Gold and Fish” and “Aquatic Plants and Fish,” which have already undergone SEPA review prior to their receipt by individuals.
- Proposed projects described in Washington Administrative Codes (WACs) 197-11-800 and 197-11-835 because they are unlikely to cause significant adverse effects on the environment.
- Some other small projects exempted by the state Legislature.
In all of these cases, WDFW will consider an HPA application without proof of SEPA compliance.
Counties serve as the lead agency for most SEPA reviews, but the SEPA Official at WDFW can help you determine if WDFW is the lead agency and if the project must go through SEPA. (Contact the WDFW SEPA Official or SEPAdesk@dfw.wa.gov for assistance.)
If your proposed project is not exempt from SEPA review, the lead agency will ask you to fill out an “environmental checklist.” This checklist asks questions about the proposal and its potential impacts on the environment. Complete the checklist and send it to the lead agency.
If the lead agency has enough information to determine that the proposal is unlikely to have a significant adverse environmental impact, the agency will issue a determination of non-significance (DNS) or a mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS).
If the information indicates that the proposal is likely to have a significant adverse environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated, the lead agency will require you to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) (see RCW 43.21C.030, section (2)(c)).
When you apply for an HPA online using WDFW’s online Aquatic Protection Permitting System (APPS), upload a copy of the SEPA determination (DNS, MDNS, or EIS). Or send a copy to WDFW with your Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA).
- If the project is categorically exempt from SEPA review: Obtain and submit the lead agency’s statement of exemption that includes the specific reason the proposed project is exempt. (See the SEPA FAQ for more information).
- If the lead agency does not require SEPA: You may upload or send a copy of the letter or email from the SEPA Official at the lead agency showing that they did not require SEPA. If the lead agency will not give you any documentation to show that you complied with the SEPA process, ask for assistance from the WDFW HPA Helpdesk at (360) 902-2422 or email APPSHelp@dfw.wa.gov.
Contact the SEPA official in the city or county where the project is located. The Department of Ecology also has information on their website about SEPA including a SEPA Guide for Project Applicants and SEPA forms.