Fish habitat enhancement project — Permit review and approval process — Limitation of liability.
(1)(a) In order to receive the permit review and approval process created in this section, a fish habitat enhancement project must meet the criteria under this section and must be a project to accomplish one or more of the following tasks:
(i) Elimination of human-made or caused fish passage barriers, including culvert repair and replacement;
(ii) Restoration of an eroded or unstable stream bank employing the principle of bioengineering, including limited use of rock as a stabilization only at the toe of the bank, and with primary emphasis on using native vegetation to control the erosive forces of flowing water; or
(iii) Placement of woody debris or other instream structures that benefit naturally reproducing fish stocks.
(b) The department shall develop size or scale threshold tests to determine if projects accomplishing any of these tasks should be evaluated under the process created in this section or under other project review and approval processes. A project proposal shall not be reviewed under the process created in this section if the department determines that the scale of the project raises concerns regarding public health and safety.
(c) A fish habitat enhancement project must be approved in one of the following ways in order to receive the permit review and approval process created in this section:
(i) By the department pursuant to chapter 77.95 or 77.100 RCW;
(ii) By the sponsor of a watershed restoration plan as provided in chapter 89.08 RCW;
(iii) By the department as a department-sponsored fish habitat enhancement or restoration project;
(iv) Through the review and approval process for the jobs for the environment program;
(v) Through the review and approval process for conservation district-sponsored projects, where the project complies with design standards established by the conservation commission through interagency agreement with the United States fish and wildlife service and the natural resource conservation service;
(vi) Through a formal grant program established by the legislature or the department for fish habitat enhancement or restoration;
(vii) Through the department of transportation's environmental retrofit program as a stand-alone fish passage barrier correction project;
(viii) Through a local, state, or federally approved fish barrier removal grant program designed to assist local governments in implementing stand-alone fish passage barrier corrections;
(ix) By a city or county for a stand-alone fish passage barrier correction project funded by the city or county; and
(x) Through other formal review and approval processes established by the legislature.
(2) Fish habitat enhancement projects meeting the criteria of subsection (1) of this section are expected to result in beneficial impacts to the environment. Decisions pertaining to fish habitat enhancement projects meeting the criteria of subsection (1) of this section and being reviewed and approved according to the provisions of this section are not subject to the requirements of RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c).
(3)(a) A permit is required for projects that meet the criteria of subsection (1) of this section and are being reviewed and approved under this section. An applicant shall use a joint aquatic resource permit application form developed by the office of regulatory assistance to apply for approval under this chapter. On the same day, the applicant shall provide copies of the completed application form to the department and to each appropriate local government.
(b) Local governments shall accept the application as notice of the proposed project. The department shall provide a fifteen-day comment period during which it will receive comments regarding environmental impacts.
(c) Within forty-five days, the department shall either issue a permit, with or without conditions, deny approval, or make a determination that the review and approval process created by this section is not appropriate for the proposed project. The department shall base this determination on identification during the comment period of adverse impacts that cannot be mitigated by the conditioning of a permit.
(d) If the department determines that the review and approval process created by this section is not appropriate for the proposed project, the department shall notify the applicant and the appropriate local governments of its determination. The applicant may reapply for approval of the project under other review and approval processes.
(e) Any person aggrieved by the approval, denial, conditioning, or modification of a permit under this section may appeal the decision as provided in RCW 77.55.021(8).
(4) No local government may require permits or charge fees for fish habitat enhancement projects that meet the criteria of subsection (1) of this section and that are reviewed and approved according to the provisions of this section.
(5) No civil liability may be imposed by any court on the state or its officers and employees for any adverse impacts resulting from a fish enhancement project permitted by the department under the criteria of this section except upon proof of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.
[2014 c 120 § 1; 2010 c 210 § 29; 2005 c 146 § 505; 2001 c 253 § 55; 1998 c 249 § 3. Formerly RCW 77.55.290, 75.20.350.]
| Intent -- Effective dates -- Application -- Pending cases and rules -- 2010 c 210: See notes following RCW 43.21B.001.|
Part headings not law -- 2005 c 146: See note following RCW 77.55.011.
Findings -- Purpose -- 1998 c 249: "The legislature finds that fish habitat enhancement projects play a key role in the state's salmon and steelhead recovery efforts. The legislature finds that there are over two thousand barriers to fish passage at road crossings throughout the state, blocking fish access to as much as three thousand miles of freshwater spawning and rearing habitat. The legislature further finds that removal of these barriers and completion of other fish habitat enhancement projects should be done in a cost-effective manner, which includes providing technical assistance and training to people who will undertake projects such as removal of barriers to salmon passage and minimizing the expense and delays of various permitting processes. The purpose of this act is to take immediate action to facilitate the review and approval of fish habitat enhancement projects, to encourage efforts that will continue to improve the process in the future, to address known fish passage barriers immediately, and to develop over time a comprehensive system to inventory and prioritize barriers on a statewide basis." [1998 c 249 § 1.]
Joint aquatic resource permit application form -- Modification -- 1998 c 249: "The department of ecology permit assistant [assistance] center shall immediately modify the joint aquatic resource permit application form to incorporate the permit process established in section 3 of this act." [1998 c 249 § 2.]
Finding -- Report -- 1998 c 249: "The legislature finds that, while the process created in this act can improve the speed with which fish habitat enhancement projects are put into place, additional efforts can improve the review and approval process for the future. The legislature directs the department of fish and wildlife, the conservation commission, local governments, fish habitat enhancement project applicants, and other interested parties to work together to continue to improve the permitting review and approval process. Specific efforts shall include the following:
(1) Development of common acceptable design standards, best management practices, and standardized hydraulic project approval conditions for each type of fish habitat enhancement project;
(2) An evaluation of the potential for using technical evaluation teams in evaluating specific project proposals or stream reaches;
(3) An evaluation of techniques appropriate for restoration and enhancement of pasture and crop land adjacent to riparian areas;
(4) A review of local government shoreline master plans to identify and correct instances where the local plan does not acknowledge potentially beneficial instream work;
(5) An evaluation of the potential for local governments to incorporate fish habitat enhancement projects into their comprehensive planning process; and
(6) Continued work with the federal government agencies on federal permitting for fish habitat enhancement projects.
The department of fish and wildlife shall coordinate this joint effort and shall report back to the legislature on the group's progress by December 1, 1998." [1998 c 249 § 15.]
Effective date -- 1998 c 249: "This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately [April 1, 1998]." [1998 c 249 § 18.]