GMA and Local Wetland Regulations

Technical assistance

Ecology is assisting local governments in their efforts to adopt wetland regulations that protect wetlands and their functions and that are based on best available science.  In 1995 the Growth Management Act (GMA), RCW 36.70A, was amended to require counties and cities to include the best available science in developing policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas.  All counties and cities in the state are required to review, evaluate, and, if necessary, revise their critical areas ordinances according to a schedule established by the state Legislature and approved by the Governor.  For more information on GMA, including update resources, grants, and checklists, refer to the Department of Commerce (Growth Management Services). 

As part of this effort, Ecology staff are reviewing draft ordinances, meeting with local planning staff and their consultants, and giving informational presentations to advisory groups, planning commissions, and local elected officials.  For more information, contact:

Publications

The publications listed below can be used by cities and counties to help develop regulations for protecting and managing wetlands:

  • Critical Areas Ordinance Guidance on how to protect wetland functions when updating their critical areas ordinances.
     
  • Washington State Wetland Rating System for Western Washington (October 2014, effective January 2015).  This rating system is designed to differentiate between wetlands in western Washington based on their sensitivity to disturbance, their significance, their rarity, our ability to replace them, and the functions they provide.  Wetlands are grouped into four categories that are used to determine regulatory criteria for avoidance, width of buffers, and mitigation ratios. (For information on the 2014 updates and how they affect Ecology's guidance on buffers, please see this web page: 2014 Updates to the Washington State Wetland Rating Systems.)
     
  • Washington State Wetland Rating System for Eastern Washington (October 2014, effective January 2015).  This rating system is designed to differentiate between wetlands in eastern Washington based on their sensitivity to disturbance, their significance, their rarity, our ability to replace them, and the functions they provide.  Wetlands are grouped into four categories that are used to determine regulatory criteria for avoidance, width of buffers, and mitigation ratios. (For information on the 2014 updates and how they affect Ecology's guidance on buffers, please see this web page: 2014 Updates to the Washington State Wetland Rating Systems.)
     
  • Wetlands in Washington State - Volume 1:  A Synthesis of the Science (March 2005).  Under the Growth Management Act, local governments are required to use the best available science when reviewing and revising their policies and regulations on wetlands.  The state departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife developed this comprehensive synthesis of the science regarding freshwater wetlands to assist local governments.
     
  • Wetlands in Washington State – Volume 2:  Guidance for Protecting and Managing Wetlands (April 2005).  This volume translates the science synthesized in Volume 1 into guidance on protecting and managing wetlands for local governments.  An advisory team of wetland scientists and planning staff from local governments provided feedback on the guidance. Ecology also met with members of various organizations from the business and environmental communities to gather comments.
     
  • Guidance on Wetland Mitigation in Washington—Parts 1 and 2 (March 2006).  This document compiles existing information on wetland mitigation, including current agency policies on mitigation. Part 1 provides an overview of the role the agencies play in regulating wetlands and explains some of the factors that go into the agencies’ wetland permitting decisions in regards to mitigation.  Part 2 provides technical information for developing wetland mitigation plans and proposals.

If you have any questions contact Donna Bunten at donna.bunten@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-7172.

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