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.
- Local wetland regulations: Growth Management Act technical assistance: We provide technical assistance to local governments under GMA including assistance in developing comprehensive plan policies and development regulations and implementing local wetland regulations.
- Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) guidance: Our CAO guidance describes the important topics to be addressed in the wetlands section. It includes recommendations for wetland protection based on best available science:
- Department of Commerce's Growth Management Services: This service assists and guides local governments, state agencies, and others to manage growth and development in a manner that is consistent with the GMA.