About Hydraulic Project Approvals (HPAs)

Washington law requires people planning hydraulic projects in or near state waters to get a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). This includes most marine and fresh waters. An HPA ensures that construction is done in a manner that protects fish and their aquatic habitats.

What is a hydraulic project?

A hydraulic project is construction or other work 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.” (RCW 77.55.011(11))

The state's Hydraulic Code Rules (Chapter 220-660 WAC) identify projects and activities that require an individual HPA. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Aquatic plant removal and control (outside of Aquatic Plants and Fish pamphlet rules)
  • Beaver dam removal or modification
  • Boat ramps and launches (new, repair, modification, and replacement)
  • Culverts and bridges (new, repair, modification, and replacement)
  • Docks, piers, ramps, floats, boathouses, and buoys (new, repair, modification, and replacement)
  • Dredging and sand/gravel removal
  • Log placement, repositioning, or removal
  • Motorized and gravity siphon aquatic mining (beginning June 11, 2020) and small-scale mineral prospecting outside of Gold and Fish pamphlet rules
  • Outfall and tide gate structures (new, repair, modification, and replacement)
  • Pond construction (new, repair, and modification)
  • Stream bank protection, bulkheads (new, repair, modification, and replacement)
  • Stream channel relocation and realignment
  • Utility crossings and test boring
  • Water diversions and intakes (new, repair, modification, and replacement)

This includes projects that occur above the ordinary high water line, which is the area on a shore (e.g. lake, marine) or bank (e.g. stream, river) where water no longer visibly affects the soil or vegetation. This may be indicated by a change in vegetation type or soil features. For example, dikes and levees are projects that may occur above the ordinary high water line and require an HPA.

Our habitat biologists can help you through the application process.

What is an emergency HPA?

“Emergency” means an immediate threat to life or property. Only the governor, WDFW, or a county legislative authority can declare an emergency. In such cases, WDFW can provide immediate verbal approval prior to work (RCW 77.55.021(12)). Please contact us:

During normal business hours (Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Outside of normal business hours

  • Call WDFW's 24-hour Emergency Hotline at 360-902-2537

What is the penalty for working without an HPA?

To protect fish and avoid penalties, be sure to obtain an HPA and follow its requirements before you work in or near the water. Failing to meet HPA requirements may result in civil or criminal enforcement actions, including:

  • Civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation, and/or
  • Criminal prosecution punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Failure to comply may also result in the project proponent being denied future HPAs.

Learn more about HPAs