Habitat Recovery Pilot Program

The Habitat Recovery Pilot Program (HRPP) is designed to streamline the local and state environmental permitting process for habitat recovery projects that benefit freshwater, estuarine, or marine fish, or their habitats. This four-year pilot program was established in 2021, under House Bill 1382, and will end June 30, 2025, as codified in RCW 77.55.480 and RCW 43.21C.515.  

The purpose statement of the 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.

Before applying to WDFW, project proponents are encouraged to contact Habitat Recovery Pilot Program staff via email for guidance. 

Resources

Contact

Hannah Faulkner, HRPP Coordinator
HPApilotprogram@dfw.wa.gov

How is environmental permitting streamlined?

Projects approved for inclusion in the pilot program are not subject to environmental review (RCW 43.21C.030(2)) under the State Environmental Policy Act and are not required to obtain local or state permits or approvals other than the Hydraulic Project Approval permit issued by WDFW, except permits minimally necessary as a requirement of participation in a federal program (RCW 77.55.480(3) and (5)).

The Habitat Recovery Pilot Program Permit Table provides local, state, and federal reviews identified for HRPP projects. Each permit/approval is categorized as "needed" or "not needed" under the HRPP.

How does HRPP differ from Fish Habitat Enhancement Project process?

The Fish Habitat Enhancement Project (FHEP) process is an existing program for streamlining the approval of four specific types of restoration projects:

  1. Elimination of human-made or caused fish passage barriers;
  2. Restoration of an eroded or unstable stream bank employing the principle of bioengineering;
  3. Placement of woody debris or other instream structures that benefit naturally reproducing fish stocks; or
  4. Restoration of native kelp and eelgrass beds and restoring native oysters.

The HRPP does not restrict qualifying applicants based on project type. In addition, the approving pathways for FHEP are different from HRPP. See RCW 77.55.181 and WAC 220-660-050(3) for more details on FHEP.

How can projects qualify for HRPP streamlined permitting?

The qualification requirements for pilot program proposals are described in RCW 77.55.480(2)(a)-(d). Before initiating the qualification process, project proponents are encouraged to contact the Habitat Recovery Pilot Program staff via email for guidance.

To qualify for the permit review and approval process, a project application must satisfy the following:

Project requirements

An environmental restoration project must directly benefit freshwater, estuarine or marine fish, or the habitat they rely on, and must be included on a list of projects reviewed, approved, or funded by one of 13 specific restoration programs (RCW 77.55.480(2)(a)).

Local, state, and federal flood risk requirements

A project must document consistency with local, state, and federal flood risk reduction requirements (RCW 77.55.480(2)(b)). Before applying to WDFW, proponents must initiate review by the local government with jurisdiction—the county or city where the project would be located—concerning their floodplain ordinance. Local governments can find more information on floodplain management, guidance, and technical assistance from the Department of Ecology.

Cultural resource protection requirements

A project applicant or funding agency must review the project with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) and complete any required site surveys before applying to WDFW. A project applicant must document consistency in the application with applicable cultural resource protection requirements, including agreement with federal review where applicable (Section 106). A copy of the application must be provided to DAHP and affected federally recognized tribes at least 60 days before applying to WDFW. See RCW 77.55.480(2)(c).

Funding agency coordination. Project proponents should check with the project funding agency before contacting DAHP or affected tribes directly. For example, the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) manages grants for many of the projects reviewed, approved, or funded through the 13 restoration programs listed in RCW 77.55.480(2)(a). For those projects, RCO generally coordinates cultural resources review with DAHP and affected tribes.

For projects that fall under federal jurisdiction—such as activities near waters requiring a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—cultural resources review may not be considered complete until the federal review process is finished and documentation of that approval is provided by the applicant. In these instances, RCO, in consultation with DAHP, may only consider cultural resources review complete pending federal review. Refer to RCO’s grant requirements for more information.

Project proponent coordination. When grant funding for projects is not managed through RCO, and another funding agency does not coordinate cultural resources review, proponents must follow the steps outlined in RCW 77.55.480(2)(c). These steps include providing copies of the application to DAHP and affected federally recognized tribes at least 60 days before applying to WDFW. See DAHP’s guidance on conducting an archeology project review to determine effects on cultural resources, as well as tribal consultation information.

Land use authorization requirements

For a project that requires a lease or other land use authorization from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) because of its location on state-owned aquatic land, the applicant must provide the project proposal to DNR at least 30 days before applying to WDFW. The project applicant must include in their application to WDFW a signed Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA) Attachment E (RCW 77.55.480(2)(d)). If you are unsure whether or not your project occurs on state-owned aquatic land, please reach out to your DNR Aquatics Land Manager in advance of your application to WDFW to avoid delays.

How do project proponents apply for review?

An applicant must use WDFW’s online Aquatic Protection Permitting System (APPS) to apply for approval under the HRPP. An application to WDFW must document consistency with the qualifications described in RCW 77.55.480(2)(a)-(d), including inclusion in one of 13 specific restoration programs, consistency with flood risk reduction requirements, completion of cultural resources review, and acknowledgment from DNR for those projects that occur on state-owned aquatic lands. An applicant must include a supplemental application form and associated documentation attesting to their understanding and completion of qualification requirements.

When applying to WDFW, the applicant must also provide a copy of the application to the local government, Multi-Agency Permitting Team members, and affected federally recognized tribes. 

For questions about using APPS, you may contact the WDFW help desk at 360-902-2422 or APPS.help@dfw.wa.gov.

What is the application review process?

Once WDFW determines an Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) application for review under the pilot program is complete (as described in RCW 77.55.021 and 77.55.480), WDFW alerts the local government, Multi-Agency Permitting (MAP) Team members, and affected tribes of the accepted application. WDFW then has 45 days to make a decision on the permit.

Within the first 25 days, any member of the local government, MAP Team, or affected tribes may request that the application be placed on “hold” and immediately convene a meeting with all parties to review and evaluate the project. The requesting entity must provide a basis for its concerns and potential pathways to address those concerns.

WDFW or, where applicable, the MAP Team shall exclude any project from the review and approval process under the pilot program if it concludes the project may adversely impact human health, public safety, or the environment, or the project’s scope or complexity renders it inappropriate for streamlined review.

What is the MAP Team?

The Multi-Agency Permitting (MAP) Team was created under the HRPP to review and evaluate applications to the program. The MAP Team consists of self-selected representatives of WDFW, the Department of Ecology, the Recreation and Conservation Office, the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Puget Sound Partnership.

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

What is WDFW doing to implement the pilot program?

WDFW is working to:

  • 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 MAP Team, including project review and evaluation;
  • Conduct outreach to local governments and federally recognized tribes in preparation for project review; and
  • Conduct outreach to habitat restoration groups and other stakeholders to provide guidance on the permit process under pilot program.