Helping property owners protect fish

WDFW requests $2.5 million to support hydraulic project compliance program

Fish protections are key to conservation

Construction projects in or near a waterbody require a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA): A tool to protect fish and their habitats

To better understand the frequency of HPA noncompliance, the department conducted a study project in the Hood Canal area. From July 2017 to February 2019, a WDFW biologist was dedicated to studying compliance coordination and conducted 175 site inspections on 98 HPA-permitted projects.

As part of an HPA compliance study project in Hood Canal, a WDFW biologist and contractor discuss possible solutions to compliance issues.

About 83% of site inspection visits encountered at least one instance of HPA noncompliance, which can have a profound impact on fish habitat.

In addition to documenting noncompliance issues, the WDFW biologist worked to help landowners and contractors identify and create solutions to compliance issues. Contractors found this collaboration to be a helpful partnership and voluntarily corrected any non-compliant concerns that were identified.

“WDFW’s Compliance Biologist has been very helpful, providing continued oversight of the work and quick feedback on the site. When there are any concerns or questions, she is extremely helpful in finding a quick and easy modification or suggestion to allow the work to be completed on time.” — Jenny Rotsten, Sealevel Bulkhead Builders, referencing 2018 HPA compliance pilot project

Compliance program helps promote good stewardship

WDFW biologist performs compliance patrol of un-permitted projects on the shoreline of Hood Canal as part of a 2018 study project.

The department is now creating a statewide program to help landowners resolve potential issues and ensure construction projects are complying with HPA requirements. This program will also help water users protect fish by properly installing and maintaining fish screens on their water diversions.

However, WDFW does not have the capacity to provide additional coordination to landowners and contractors for their construction activities. Improving the effectiveness of HPAs will require dedicated staff to conduct site inspections and provide technical assistance.

The department is requesting $2.5 million during this legislative session to help fund this work throughout the 2021–23 biennium budget.

Providing technical support to landowners and contractors

WDFW wants to help people comply with the law. Our best chance of doing that is to have dedicated inspectors at construction sites during key points of work so they can fix non-compliant issues quickly and avoid damage to fish and their habitats. Preventing or correcting issues early in the project also reduces construction costs as it is often more difficult to remove or redo a non-compliant structure.


Randi Thurston, Habitat Program Compliance Division Manager

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.