RIVERS — Starting July 10, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will charge $150 to process the state permit required for construction projects in and around state waters.
The permit, called a hydraulic project approval (HPA), has been issued to the public at no direct cost since 1943, when it was created by the state Legislature to ensure that projects such as bulkheads, culverts and dock construction meet state standards for fish and shellfish protection.
Good for the state to see the need to continue this oversight. For example, the city of Spokane is leaving consumers prey to unscrupulous businesses by eliminating the one-man local weights and measures department that helps assure gas pumps and scales are accurate. The city says it can't afford the luxury of oversight.
Because the state is willing to take the criticism of establishing a fee, fish and streams and the people who need them will be better served.
Read on for details about the WDFW hydraulics permit program and the need for the permit fee.
This year, after a series of state budget cuts, the Legislature authorized WDFW to begin charging applicants to help meet the administrative costs of assessing proposed projects and recommending ways to reduce their effects on the marine and freshwater environment.
“The HPA program provides baseline protection for all of our state’s fish and shellfish resources including salmon, a northwest icon,” said Jeff Davis, WDFW program manager. “It’s a lot more cost-efficient to head off environmental problems than to correct them after the damage has been done.”
While requests for HPAs have remained steady at about 4,500 per year, Davis said state funding for the $7 million program has declined by approximately $2 million since 2000. Since then, the number of biologists deployed across the state to assess HPA projects has declined from 51 to 37.
The new application fee is expected to raise approximately $400,000 per year to help make up for some of those cutbacks, Davis said.
“This funding will help us get biologists back out into the field where they can help people protect fish and get their projects completed,” he said. “Our opportunity to ensure a successful project is directly related to the amount of time we can spend with applicants when they design their project and start work.”
Some HPA applications will be exempt from the new fee under the legislation approved this year. These include small-scale mineral prospecting, some agricultural projects and other “pamphlet” HPAs defined in state law. A new version of the application form, called a Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application, or JARPA, will be available to applicants after June 29 from the Washington State Office of Regulatory Assistance’s website at www.epermitting.org.
Several new provisions also include changes designed to streamline the permitting process, such as:
·Allowing WDFW to authorize minor modifications in the “work window” (timing) for some projects without the need to reissue an HPA.
·Authorizing WDFW to issue a general permit for maintenance of marinas and marine terminals, provided the department is notified of the work 14 days in advance.
·Integrating WDFW fish protection standards into forestry practices applications, and eliminating the need to obtain an HPA for forestry projects by Dec. 31, 2013.
“All of these changes will help us serve the public better and focus more attention on the high-priority projects that pose the greatest risk to the species that depend on state waters for their survival,” Davis said.