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Bill #:  6406

Major  Support

Natural resources reform including stormwater permit relief and modernization of SEPA

Companion bill #: No Companion Bill.

Senate - LAW

Summary/AWC comments

This bill passed during the Special Session and was signed by the Governor on May 2.  (Governor Gregoire did veto two minor sections of the bill that were left in the bill unintentionally. They were remnants of provisions that had already been removed from the bill).

Bill summary

Stormwater permits (section 313)

A budget proviso providing for $1 million in funding for cost-free training for local governments and local development officials on how to make low impact development successful in their communities
. This will include training on when and where low impact development is feasible, and on the design, installation, and maintenance of these facilities. The agreement is to provide $1 million in training funds for each of the next five years.

For the Western Washington Phase II permit, the following deadlines are moved to December 31, 2016 (except that, for cities in Lewis and Cowlitz Counties, the deadlines will be June 30, 2017, corresponding to GMA update deadlines):

  • The deadlines for the requirements for low impact development (LID) codes for development and redevelopment projects as well as the broad-scale review to find opportunities across other city codes to require LID are synched up simultaneously. (The draft permit calls for the development codes to be adopted a year prior to the broad-scale review.) This provides a one-year delay in the time when LID must be required for development projects, and enables a smooth transition to LID by ensuring that all codes have been updated before it is required.
  • Delays the removal of the “one-acre threshold” by three years, with the new deadline for applying stormwater standards to these smaller projects moved from 2013 to 2016.
  • Delays the implementation of any increased requirements related to catch basin or illicit discharge inspection frequencies by three years, from 2013 to 2016.

The Eastern Washington Phase II permit receives a straight one-year delay and becomes effective August 2014.

State Environmental Policy Act, the bill includes the following:

A two-part rulemaking process by the Department of Ecology to update SEPA categorical exemptions for certain projects, as follows:

  • By December 2012, the Department must conclude rulemaking to increase the categorical exemptions for single family, multifamily, commercial, and agricultural developments, as well as standards for excavation, grading, and electrical facilities.
  • By December 2013, the Department must update, but not decrease, all other categorical exemptions, including new non-project categorical exemptions for minor code amendments that do not create environmental problems. Finally, this 2013 rulemaking will also propose methods to further integrate SEPA and GMA.
  • The advisory group convened to guide this rulemaking process will also make recommendations to ensure that appropriate notice will continue to be provided to all interested parties, including federally recognized tribes.

The following non-project actions are categorically exempted from SEPA review:

  • Amendments to development regulations required to ensure consistency with adopted comprehensive plans or shoreline master programs.
  • Certain amendments that provide increased environmental protections, such as increased buffers or vegetation retention ordinances.
  • Amendments to technical codes to comply with building, energy, and electrical codes.

Upfront planning tools for planned action and infill development are improved, including the following:

  • Allowing for commercial development up to 65,000 square feet in the infill authority.
  • Authorizing use of the infill tools in all those areas where an EIS has been done (not including EIS on full comprehensive plan), such as a sub-area plan.
  • Authorizing some essential public facilities in planned action areas.
  • Authorizing planned actions that encompass a full city with certain restrictions.

Authority for jurisdictions to provide guidance to applicants through the SEPA checklist. This will allow cities to “answer” questions for applicants by pointing to city or state ordinances that will adequately cover potential environmental impacts. The hope is that this will help provide assistance to “mom-and-pop” applicants as they work through the SEPA process.

Converts the Planning and Environmental Review account to an account that can also make loans. Although this account remains unfunded, there is interest in utilizing this account in the future as a revolving fund to promote upfront planning that will be repaid by latecomer fees.

One disappointment is that, in order to attain final passage in the House, we needed to remove the latecomer fee provisions that we had negotiated with the business and development community. These provisions were removed when HB 2253 first left the House to give us a chance to get to final agreement with the business community.

Although we later reached agreement with the business stakeholders and re-inserted the provisions in the Senate, there was not enough time to build support for these provisions among the House Republicans by the time the bill came in front of them for the final time. We expect to continue to work on these provisions with the Legislature and business community in the coming years.

Hydraulic Project approvals and Forest Practices permits

  • Provides for a small $150 fee for hydraulic permits to support the important fish protection work of the Department of Fish & Wildlife (Sections 101 - 109) .
  • Integrates the Hydraulic Permits and Forest Practices permits for forestry work around water, streamlining two permits into one (Sections 201 - 219).

Latest version of bill:

Link to WA Legislative bill page

Official title:

AN ACT Relating to modifying programs that provide for the protection of the state's natural resources; amending RCW 77.55.021, 77.15.300, 77.55.151, 77.55.231, 76.09.040, 76.09.050, 76.09.150, 76.09.065, 76.09.460, 76.09.470, 76.09.030, 43.21C.170, 43.21C.110, 43.21C.229, 43.21C.031, 36.70A.280, 43.21C.010, 43.21C.030, 43.21C.033, 43.21C.036, 43.21C.0382, 43.21C.0383, 43.21C.0384, 43.21C.060, 43.21C.120, 43.21C.130, 43.21C.135, 43.21C.240, and 43.21C.300; reenacting and amending RCW 77.55.011,


Hargrove, Hobbs, Delvin, Hatfield, Tom, Stevens, Regala, Morton, Ranker, Shin

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AWC Contacts

Analyst:  Dave Catterson
Lobbyist:  Carl Schroeder

Issue Area

Environment & Water

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