Historic Legislative Session Has Big Implications in Washington State

Historic Legislative Session Has Big Implications in Washington State

On April 25, the Washington State Legislature passed a two-year $59 billion budget and several major pieces of legislation that included many environmental permitting and regulatory provisions. There are two in particular that may impact ESA’s clients and projects: salmon recovery permitting and the Flood Control Assistance Account Program (FCAAP).

Flood Control Assistance Account Program
Major investments were approved for flood hazard management efforts in Washington State.

The legislature approved $4.15 million in funding for the state’s Flood Control Assistance Account Program (FCAAP) for the 2021–2023 biennium. This program, which has not been fully funded since 2009, is back to funding levels that will assist local jurisdictions, federally recognized tribes, conservation districts, and special-purpose districts with comprehensive flood hazard management planning.

Projects eligible for this funding include comprehensive flood hazard management plans and feasibility studies. Applications will be accepted August 3, 2021, through September 30, 2021.

In 2021, ESA assisted the Department of Ecology with the development of the updated state-wide Comprehensive Planning for Flood Hazard Management guidebook. This document provides guidance to local governments preparing comprehensive flood hazard management plans that address flood hazard management needs, comply with state laws, and compete for grant funds. The guidebook also provides planners and resource managers with a suite of tools and considerations for addressing integrated floodplain management, relevant programs and grants (such as the Community Rating System program and FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant program), and tribal rights in their Flood Plan.

ESA is uniquely suited to assist clients with the development of comprehensive flood hazard management plans funded through this program. For any questions about FCAAP and how it may help your planning efforts, reach out to Spencer Easton, CFM, or Sky Miller, PE.

Senate Bill 5381: Addressing Fish Passage Project Permit Streamlining
As we shared in a recent story, fish passage projects in the Pacific Northwest and beyond provide access to spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead, including species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

However, permitting processes can slow the rate at which these improvement projects are completed. SB 5381 allows fish passage barrier correction projects to be eligible for the existing streamlined review and approval process for fish habitat enhancement projects when they are part of Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) transportation projects or sponsored by recognized tribes.

The legislation also allows projects whose primary purpose is fish passage improvement or barrier removal to be exempt from the substantial development permits under the Shoreline Management Act. This exemption applies to eligible forest practices hydraulic projects designed to improve fish or wildlife habitat or fish passage as well. Additionally, WSDOT is directed to work with the Department of Ecology and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to coordinate a multiagency approach to streamline the acquisition of commonly needed federal environmental permits that are required for WSDOT fish passage barrier correction projects.

ESA is a leader in the planning, permitting, and design of fish passage barrier removal projects throughout Washington and Oregon. Our team of multidisciplinary experts is prepared to help our clients navigate the complexities and challenges of fish passage barrier removal projects, including those made eligible for streamlined review by this legislation.

If you have a fish passage project and are not sure if it is eligible for this program, reach out to Paul Schlenger or Jon Ambrose.

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