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Wetland regulation & permitting resources

We protect and manage wetlands through multiple state laws, which define our regulatory authority.Two state laws, the state Water Pollution Control Act and the Shoreline Management Act, give us the authority to regulate wetlands. We also use the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process to identify potential wetland-related concerns early in the permitting process.

Will your project impact a wetland?

Our regional wetlands staff review applications for projects that have the potential to impact wetlands and other "waters of the state." Applicants who propose altering aquatic resources must go through mitigation sequencing to avoid and minimize impacts before determining whether compensatory mitigation is appropriate and a permit is required.

401 water quality certifications

We also administer Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. We approve, condition, or deny proposed projects in "waters of the U.S." including wetlands, to ensure they meet state water quality standards. Any actions necessary to protect water quality are then included as conditions in the section 401 water quality certification.

Technical assistance for governments

In addition, we provide technical assistance to local governments under the Growth Management Act. This includes assistance in developing comprehensive plan policies and development regulations, and in implementing local wetland regulations.

Regulation of specific wetland types

State laws that protect wetlands are broader than current federal regulations. The state can establish protocols for managing wetlands falling outside federal jurisdiction. For example, impacts to wetlands outside federal jurisdiction, such as isolated wetlands, are authorized through administrative orders under the state Water Pollution Control Act.

Local wetland regulations

In general, the state emphasizes a local approach to wetland protection and regulation. The state Growth Management Act (GMA) authorizes and requires cities and counties to regulate wetlands within their jurisdictions. This is typically accomplished by adopting a Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). We play an advisory role by providing comments during CAO updates and offering technical assistance.

Permitting resources