Habitat Recovery Pilot Program

The Habitat Recovery Pilot Program is being developed to streamline the environmental permitting process for habitat recovery projects. Eligible restoration projects must benefit freshwater, estuarine, or marine fish, or their habitats. This program was established by law in 2021 and will end June 30, 2025. 

Learn more about the pilot program in the frequently asked questions below. 

Before initiating the pre-qualification process or filing an application, project proponents are encouraged to contact Habitat Recovery Pilot Program staff via email for guidance.


Habitat Recovery Pilot Program

What is the Habitat Recovery Pilot Program?

Governor Inslee signed Engrossed 2nd Substitute House Bill (E2SHB) 1382 into law on April 16, 2021, with an effective date of July 25, 2021. The law establishes the Habitat Recovery Pilot Program (pilot program) to streamline the state and local environmental permitting process for qualifying environmental restoration projects.

The purpose statement of the new law reads as follows (E2SHB 1382, Sec. 1):

The legislature finds that, particularly in times of economic hardship, it is in the interest of the citizens and natural resources of the state to promote and implement habitat restoration projects that have been determined to contribute to the recovery of watersheds throughout the state. The legislature further finds that habitat recovery projects that contribute to the recovery of orca, salmon, steelhead, bull trout, rock fish, and other fish species and habitat they rely on are particularly valuable. It is the legislature's intent that these projects advance to construction as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby creating jobs and further bolstering the natural resources and natural resource economy of Washington.

How long will the pilot program last?

This is a four-year pilot program. As established by law in the 2021 Washington State legislative session through E2SHB 1382, and codified in RCW 77.55.480 and RCW 43.21C.515, the statutory provisions that enable the pilot program expire on June 30, 2025.

What types of habitat recovery projects qualify for streamlined permit processing?

To be included in the pilot program, an environmental restoration project must directly benefit freshwater, estuarine, or marine fish, or the habitat they rely on. In addition, the project must be included on a list of projects reviewed, approved, or funded by specific restoration programs. Refer to RCW 77.55.480(2)(a) for the full set of 13 restoration programs.

Furthermore, prior to submitting a permit application to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) under this pilot program, a proponent must document consistency with local, state, and federal flood risk reduction requirements, as well as document consistency with applicable cultural resource protection requirements. The Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation and affected federally recognized tribes have 60 days to review a pilot program proposal before a permit application is filed with WDFW.

For details about the pilot program pre-qualification requirements, refer to RCW 77.55.480(2)(a)-(d).

How is the environmental permitting process streamlined?

Once WDFW determines that an application for a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) permit under the pilot program is complete, WDFW then has 45 days to issue the permit, unless a “hold” is placed on that review period based on concerns from reviewing parties, as described below. Projects approved for inclusion in the pilot program are not subject to environmental review (i.e., the requirements of RCW 43.21C.030(2)) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and are not required to obtain local or state permits or approvals other than the permit issued by WDFW, except permits minimally necessary as a requirement of participation in a federal program (RCW 77.55.480(3) and (5)).

Part of the review process of a complete application submitted under the pilot program is consideration by a multiagency permitting team and affected federally recognized tribes. The multiagency permitting team consists of representatives of the local government in whose geographical jurisdiction the project would be located, WDFW, the Department of Ecology, the Recreation and Conservation Office, the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office, the Department of Natural Resources, and—when the project in question is located in the Puget Sound basin—the Puget Sound Partnership.

WDFW or, where applicable, the multiagency permitting team shall exclude any project from the review and approval process under the pilot program if it concludes that the project may adversely impact human health, public safety, or the environment, or that the project's scope or complexity renders it inappropriate for expedited review. Reviewing parties have 25 days from WDFW’s determination of completeness for the application to place a “hold” on the 45-day permit review period to address these types of concerns.

For details about the application review process, refer to RCW 77.55.480(4)(a)-(g).

What steps is WDFW taking to implement the pilot program?

WDFW is working to:

  • Conduct the rule making process process to insert a reference in the Hydraulic Code (Chapter 220-660 WAC) to the associated statute (RCW 77.55.480) for the pilot program enabled through E2SHB 1382;
  • Hire staff who will coordinate statewide implementation of the pilot program in collaboration with regionally based habitat biologists;
  • Modify workflows in the Aquatic Protection Permitting System (APPS) to accommodate pilot program projects;
  • Organize the multiagency permitting team in preparation for project review;
  • Plan outreach to local governments and federally recognized tribes in preparation for project review; and
  • Plan outreach to habitat restoration groups and other stakeholders to provide guidance on the permit process under pilot program.

When can project proponents apply for a streamlined permit under the pilot program?

E2SHB 1382 took effect on July 25, 2021. Proponents may file applications with WDFW upon satisfying the pre-qualification requirements outlined in RCW 77.55.480(2)(a)-(d).

What are the pre-qualification requirements?

The pre-qualification requirements for pilot program proposals are described at RCW 77.55.480(2)(a)-(d). Project proponents could initiate the pre-qualification process by providing copies of the application to the following parties at least 60 days prior to filing the application with WDFW:

  • Local government with jurisdiction. This could be a county or city, depending on project location.
  • Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). Conduct an archeology project review to determine effects on cultural resources.
  • Affected federally recognized tribes. DAHP provides tribal consultation information

Through this pre-qualification process, a proponent must document consistency with local, state, and federal flood risk reduction requirements, as well as applicable cultural resource protection requirements. Additionally, if the project takes place on state-owned aquatic land, the proposal also needs to have been provided to the Department of Natural Resources at least 30 days prior to the application being filed with WDFW.

Before initiating the pre-qualification process or filing an application, project proponents are encouraged to contact the Habitat Recovery Pilot Program staff via email for guidance.