Wetland Mitigation Bank photo

Pilot Program Information

What is a pilot program?

A pilot program is somewhat like taking a rule for a test drive to work out any kinks and make necessary adjustments to the rule prior to formal adoption as part of Washington’s Administrative Code. By testing a rule through a pilot program knowledge and experience are gained first hand. The pilot program gives the opportunity to assess regulatory impacts, identify implementation and administration costs, and review and analyze the results. Instead of jumping in feet first, a pilot program enables the government to test a rule and make changes before a final rule is adopted.

What are the benefits of using a pilot program?

There are several reasons why we are using a pilot program instead of just writing a rule and adopting it. The benefits of a pilot program are:

  • Introduces reality into the process.

  • Impacts on regulated parties can be more accurately assessed.

  • Compliance and implementation costs can be more accurately assessed.

  • Results/products are reviewed and compared with expectations.

  • Mitigate negative consequences of a rule before formal adoption.

  • Facilitates development of more efficient/effective rules.

  • Fosters cooperation between business and government.

  • Involves regulated parties directly in rule development process.

History of the wetland mitigation banking pilot program

In 1998, the Legislature directed Ecology, through Chapter 90.84 RCW, to develop rules for a statewide wetland banking certification program. During an 18-month negotiated rule process, a draft rule (WAC 173-700) was developed. The draft rule was published for public review and comment in January 2001.
Dunlin illustration

On June 30, 2002, the wetland banking program was placed on indefinite hold because the staff position that was leading this rulemaking effort was cut due to budget shortfalls. The proposed rule was withdrawn on May 30, 2002, and the notice of withdrawal was published in the Washington State Register (WSR 02-12-058).

The 2004 legislature appropriated $120,000 for the Department of Ecology to implement a pilot program for wetland banking during fiscal year 2005. The funding is being used to implement the pilot program and test the draft rule. Ecology will be using the draft rule (WAC 173-700) that was previously negotiated to implement the pilot program.

Ecology convened a group of advisors to assist the department in selecting bank projects to participate in the pilot program.  The advisors will also assist the department in evaluating feedback from the bank sponsors on the draft rule and certification process. The group continues to help Ecology evaluate the implementation of the draft rule and all proposed revisions to the rule.

The pilot program was initially funded for one year (to June 30, 2005). The advisory group selected 6 banks to participate in the pilot program.  During that year Ecology used the process outlined in the draft rule to evaluate the 6 bank proposals. An interagency team, the Interagency Review Team (IRT), was created to provide technical review of mitigation bank proposals. In 2005 the legislature extended the pilot program through fiscal year 2007.

Goals of the wetland mitigation banking pilot program

Four major goals of the pilot program were to:

  • Test the implementation of the draft wetland mitigation banking rule and identify any necessary revisions in order to ensure that the bank certification process and requirements are appropriate, reasonable, and ecologically sound.

  • Have a representative sample of bank projects that range in size, maturity, location, and ownership.

  • Certify 6 banks during the life of the pilot program.

  • Demonstrate the added value that Ecology contributes to the state’s wetland banking program.

What steps did proposed banks go through during the Pilot Program ?

In general, the banks went through the following steps:

  • Bank proponent submitted a prospectus.

  • Interagency Review Team (IRT) reviewed the prospectus.

  • Bank proponent responded to feedback from the IRT.

  • Prospectus was sent out for public comment. 

  • Bank proponent submitted draft Mitigation Banking Instrument (MBI).

  • Agencies gave final approval:

  • Corps (federal)

  • Ecology (state certification)

  • Local governments.

When did Ecology adopt the draft rule?

The reason for conducting the pilot program was so that Ecology could test the draft rule and eventually adopt it. With input from the advisory group and pilot program participants, some changes to the draft rule were made to eliminate problems before the rule was formally adopted.

Ecology re-filed a draft of the revised rule for public comment and then proceed to final adoption. And on September 3, 2009, Ecology adopted the rule.  The rule establishes criteria and a certification process for wetland mitigation banks across the state. (More information on the rule.)

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