OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has launched a streamlined application system for state hydraulic approval permits, which have played a key role in protecting fish populations for the past 70 years.
Program managers say the new online system makes it easier to apply for - and monitor - Hydraulic Project Approvals (HPA), a state permit required for construction projects and certain other activities in or near state waters.
For a start, the new Aquatic Protection Permitting System reduces the standard HPA application from 14 pages to three, said Lisa Veneroso, assistant director for WDFW's Habitat Program.
In addition, the new system - available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/hpa/ - allows applicants to complete the entire application process online and makes completed applications visible to the public on WDFW's website.
"The new system doesn't alter state standards for fish protection, but it does make it a lot easier to apply for a permit," Veneroso said. "Just as important, it makes the permitting process a lot more transparent by making applications readily accessible for public review."
Common HPA projects include construction of culverts, bridges, bulkheads, docks, piers and ponds, as well as dredging, pile driving, and mineral prospecting. Since 1943, state law has required anyone planning these or other specified projects in or near state waters to obtain an HPA.
Veneroso said WDFW habitat biologists review approximately 4,000 HPA applications each year, and set conditions to avoid or minimize impacts to fish life.
"It all starts with the application" she said. "The new online system will be a huge benefit to the applicants, the department and the public."
Using the new system, HPA applicants can now go online to:
- Submit an application and any necessary supporting documents.
- Pay for their HPA, using a credit card or bank transfer.
- Check the status of their application and correspond with WDFW staff.
- Obtain a text version of their application that can be copied and pasted into applications for other permits that may be required by other state agencies.
- Receive and print an HPA via email.
Anyone interested in work permitted by HPAs can also use the new online tool to search for projects, receive notifications about project applications, and submit comments to WDFW online.
"This program has been in operation for the past 70 years," Veneroso said. "The online system is the most recent improvement in a series of revisions intended to improve our customer service delivery and effectiveness in protecting fish life."