For more information on the Hydraulic Permit Application (HPA) Program, please contact:
WDFW Habitat Program
(360) 902-2534


Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA)

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does WDFW care if I work in or near the water?
Construction or other work activities in or near the water can kill or harm fish or shellfish directly or indirectly by damaging or destroying their habitat. Damaged or destroyed habitat can continue to cause lost production of fish and shellfish for as long as the habitat remains altered.

What law gives WDFW the authority to regulate work that may affect fish life?
In 1943, the Washington State Legislature passed a state law now known as the "Hydraulic Code" (Chapter 77.55 RCW). This law gave WDFW the authority to approve proposed construction projects if the projects adequately protect fish life.

What does the law say?
The law requires that any person, organization, or government agency wishing to conduct any construction activity that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of state waters must do so under the terms of a permit issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. State waters include all marine waters and fresh waters of the state, except those watercourses that are entirely artificial, such as irrigation ditches, canals, and storm water run-off devices.

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)).

What is an HPA?
A Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) is a permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that you need before you construct a project or conduct other work activities in or near the water (hydraulic projects). The purpose of the HPA is to protect fish and their habitat. “Hydraulic Project Approval” and “HPA” are legally defined in WAC 220-660-030(77).

Do I need an HPA?
Most types of hydraulic projects require an HPA. These include installing, repairing, or replacing piers, ramps, and/or floats (docks); repairing or replacing bulkheads; and cattle crossings of streams on agricultural lands. Chapter 220-660 WAC has more examples of hydraulic projects that require an HPA.

Some types of hydraulic projects do not need an HPA. These include the construction of net pens and other structures used to culture fish and shellfish and the removal of derelict (lost) fishing gear or pots. WAC 220-660-040 has more examples of exemptions.

WDFW developed two pamphlet HPAs: Gold and Fish for mineral prospecting and Aquatic Plants and Fish for removing or controlling aquatic plants, to cover the most common types of these activities. If you can follow the timing, location, and equipment restrictions described in the pamphlet HPAs, you may use them as your HPA for that project. There is no fee to obtain or use a pamphlet HPA as your permit. If you want to work at a different time, in a different location, or use different equipment than the Gold and Fish or Aquatic Plants and Fish pamphlet allows, you will need to apply for separate, written HPA.

If you are not sure if you need an HPA, contact the WDFW Habitat Biologist for your location. Click here for the names, coverage areas, and contact information for Habitat Biologists or call the Habitat Program at (360) 902-2534.

How do I get an HPA?
Here are the general steps to apply for a “written HPA,” which applies to projects not covered by a written HPA. RCW 77.55.021(2) describes what is needed for a complete HPA application.

  • Complete and submit the online HPA application (APPS) or JARPA form. You may be able to use a simplified HPA application. Each of these websites has more information.
  • Include complete project plans, including proof of SEPA compliance.
  • WDFW issues most HPAs within 45 days after we receive your complete application.
  • See more information on HPAs.

You can print out the Gold and Fish or Aquatic Plants and Fishpamphlet HPA free or call (360) 902-2534 or email to ask that WDFW mail you one.

How do I get help planning my project?
We encourage you to work with the Habitat Biologist for your location when you are planning your project and before you apply for an HPA. This will help ensure your project is designed to protect fish, shellfish, and their habitat which will speed up the permitting process. 

What if I have an emergency and need a permit right away?
If you need to conduct your proposed project immediately because of an emergency (defined in WAC 220-660-030(38)), do one of these:

During normal business hours

Contact your local Habitat Biologist

If you cannot reach your local Habitat Biologist

Contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife office

Outside of normal business hours

Call the Emergency HPA Hotline at (360) 902-2537

“Emergency HPAs” (see RCW 77.55.021(12)) can be issued as quickly as the same day if there is an immediate threat to people, property, or the environment. Proof of SEPA compliance is not required for an emergency HPA.

What is SEPA?
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) (Chapter 43.21C RCW) requires state and local governments within the state to conduct environmental reviews of certain proposed projects. Most people who apply for an HPA must submit documentation with their application showing that they have complied with SEPA.

  • SEPA review is usually conducted by the local government (city or county) planning or permitting department.
  • SEPA is a way to identify possible environmental impacts that may result from governmental decisions such as issuing permits.
  • Certain proposed projects described in WACs 197-11-800 and 197-11-835, are exempt because they are unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental impact.
  • Pamphlet HPAs have already undergone SEPA review; you do not need to provide additional proof of SEPA compliance if you will work under a pamphlet HPA.
  • See the WDFW HPA SEPA page and Frequently Asked Questions about SEPA.

How are HPA applications processed?
Customer service specialists will review your application to make sure it contains the basic information needed to process it. If the application is missing basic information, a service representative will request additional information from you or your authorized agent. If the application is complete, they will assign the application to a Habitat Biologist for processing. The biologist:

  • Will work with you to help achieve your objective while protecting fish, shellfish, and their habitat. The biologist may request additional information or revisions to construction drawing to ensure your project protects fish resources.
  • Will determine the most appropriate times for you to work in or near the water.  Work times protect fish life during vulnerable life history stage such as, spawning, incubation, and juvenile migration.  (see: Times When Spawning or Incubating Salmonids are Least Likely to be Within Washington State Freshwaters)
  • May visit the project site and try to meet with you to review fish habitat needs and how the project may affect fish or their habitat.

When will I get my HPA?
Habitat biologists issue most HPAs within 45 days of receiving a complete application and proof of SEPA compliance, if required.

Can I modify an HPA once it is issued?
Yes. Please see this document for details about modifications. HPA Modification Information Sheet

What will my HPA require?
If your proposed project might adversely affect fish, shellfish or their habitat, the HPA may be approved with certain conditions or limitations, such as timing and construction methods, to minimize harm. If your project cannot be constructed without significant adverse impacts to fish or their habitat, your application may be denied.

How do I contact the Habitat Biologist for my location?
Click here for the names, coverage areas, and contact information for Habitat Biologists or call the Habitat Program at (360) 902-2534.

What other permits do I need?
The Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) can give you information about environmental permits in Washington. Call 1-800-917-0043 or go to to find out which environmental permits are required for your proposed activity. You should consult with ORIA or your local government agencies early in the planning process so that you know about all of the permits required for your work.

What if I don’t agree with some or any parts of an HPA, or a denial?
Contact the Habitat Biologist who issued the HPA (named on the HPA) and explain your concerns. If your concerns are not resolved, we recommend that you can talk with their supervisor or the Regional Habitat Program Manager before you file an appeal. Many concerns are resolved at the regional level. You can file an informal or formal appeal within 30 days after you received the HPA. Because protection of fish life is the only reason why an HPA may be denied or conditioned, only issues pertaining to protection of fish life can be considered during the appeal process.

The informal and formal appeal rules are summarized at the bottom of each HPA. The actual rules for informal and formal appeals are listed in WACs 220-660-460 and 220-660-470. If you have questions about appeals, contact WDFW’s HPA Appeals Coordinator at (360) 902-2260.

What is an “expedited HPA”?
WDFW may issue expedited HPAs for projects when normal processing time would result in significant hardship for the applicant or unacceptable damage to the environment AND when the situation meets the definition of “imminent danger” in RCW 77.55.011(12). WDFW must issue expedited HPAs in writing within 15 days of the request for a permit. Proof of SEPA compliance is not required for an expedited HPA. Contact the Habitat Biologist for your location for more information.

What is “streamlined processing” for Fish Habitat Enhancement Projects?
Fish habitat enhancement projects must meet the specific criteria in RCW 77.55.181. Projects approved under this law do not require local permits or proof of SEPA compliance, but do require approval from the local government. You must apply for streamlined processing of fish habitat enhancement projects through APPS or by including a streamlined processing form with a JARPA. Contact the Habitat Biologist for your location for more information.

What will happen if I do work without getting a permit from WDFW?
You will be subject to enforcement and prosecution. RCW 77.55.291 allows WDFW to issue fines of up to $100 per day for violation of any provisions of RCW 77.55.021. Additionally, under section 2 of RCW 9A.20.010, you will be subject to penalties for a gross misdemeanor.