Local wetland regulations: Growth Management Act technical assistance

We assist local governments in their efforts to adopt regulations that protect wetlands and their functions that are based on best available science.

The 1995 state Growth Management Act (GMA) requires local governments to include the best available science in developing policies and regulations protecting the functions and values of critical areas. All Washington counties and cities are required to review, evaluate, and, if necessary, revise their critical areas ordinances (CAO) according to a schedule established by the Washington Legislature.

For more information on the GMA including updated resources, grants, and checklists, please refer to the Department of Commerce's Growth Management Services.

As part of this effort, we review the wetland chapters of draft CAOs, meet with local planning staff and consultants, and provide wetlands presentations to advisory groups, planning commissions, and local elected officials.

Wetland guidance for CAO updates

Our overall guidance, called Wetland Guidance for CAO Updates, describes the important topics that should be addressed in the wetlands section of a critical areas ordinance (CAO). Our guidance includes a version for Eastern Washington and another for Western Washington.

Both include recommendations for wetland protection based on best available science, such as wetland buffers and mitigation options.

The guidance also includes a sample chapter for wetlands that incorporates these recommendations into a format similar to many local CAOs and contains definitions commonly used in wetlands regulations.

This guidance revises the wetland-specific provisions in the Department of Commerce's Critical Areas Assistance Handbook. For assistance with other aspects of a critical areas ordinance update, please contact the Department of Commerce's Growth Management Services.

Planning under the Voluntary Stewardship Program More local government resources

July 2018 modified habitat score ranges

We have modified the habitat score ranges we use in our wetland buffer tables. As a result, we have updated sections XX.040 and XX.050 in our wetland CAO guidance. These updated sections are available below: For more information on the modifications, see our frequently asked questions.