Public comment open on hydraulic code update
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on proposed updates to state Hydraulic Code rules, which regulate construction and other work in or near state waters to protect fish life.
Common projects requiring approval under the state’s hydraulic rules include work on bulkheads, culverts, piers and docks.
WDFW will accept written comments through Aug.15 on the proposed rules, a related draft environmental impact statement, and a small business economic impact statement.
All documents related to this rulemaking activity are available on WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/hpa/rulemaking/, along with an email address for submitting comments. Written comments also can be addressed to Randi Thurston, WDFW Habitat Program, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
Lisa Veneroso, who leads WDFW's habitat program, said the changes proposed in the Hydraulic Code rules will provide more protection for fish, streamline the permit process and ensure the code is consistent with other state laws.
“Much has changed in state law and environmental science since the last comprehensive update of the hydraulic rules in 1994,” Veneroso said. “The new rules reflect those changes and will provide better protection for the habitat that fish depend on to survive.”
Some rules proposed by WDFW would set new standards for projects ranging from the construction of culverts to the design of waterfront bulkheads and docks. Others would clarify existing policies, including those restricting the use of creosote in aquatic areas and promoting the preservation of marine vegetation.
“Many of the updates we are proposing are specifically designed to provide greater protection for fish and shellfish,” Veneroso said. “But we’ve also worked to streamline the application process for businesses, individuals and government agencies that need permits to conduct work in and around state waters.”
Veneroso said WDFW habitat biologists review approximately 4,000 applications each year for those permits, known as Hydraulic Project Approvals (HPAs).
The proposed updates to the rules that guide that process are the result of six years of discussions with local and tribal governments, environmental organizations, the forest industry, the agricultural community and other state agencies.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel that sets WDFW policy, has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed rule changes Aug. 8 in Olympia. Written comments received on those proposals by Aug. 1 will be forwarded to the commission for consideration at that meeting.
The commission is expected to consider adoption of the proposed changes to the state’s Hydraulic Code rules later this year.