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Published on Friday, February 7, 2014

SEPA requirements for cultural resources

HB 2709 moved out of committee this week with a last minute amendment from the chair, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien). The underlying bill would have re-applied SEPA for cultural, archaeological and historic resources to all actions recently exempted, or proposed for exemption under SEPA reform rulemaking that we’ve been involved with for the last few years. We expressed opposition to the bill because we have been working through the rulemaking process to find an agreed upon solution to these issues.

The amendment, based upon an idea that cities presented in a SEPA cultural resources discussion that sprung from a similar bill that we opposed last session, requires cities to copy interested parties when we provide developers a “notice of completed application.” The idea was that providing others notice at that point would meet what the tribes were asking for - to not lose the notice they receive under SEPA. The thought was that functionally it should be very pain free, just adding a distribution list to the CC on an email that we’re already sending out. When initially proposed the idea was rejected and conversations shifted back the broader SEPA rule update.

Ecology’s current SEPA rule proposal puts a number of requirements on cites cities in this arena (see page 9). Those responsibilities kick in if we use our authority to raise optional categorical exemption thresholds.

Please provide feedback on this proposal, especially as it relates to the new responsibilities under the rule to Carl Schroeder.