State Allows Limited Opportunity For Public Input On Major Changes In Nearshore Protection Code

This just in from Sound Action. As usual, there is way more to this than meets the eye. The State is pushing for major changes, putting out hundreds of documents, and ‘fast tracking’ these changes with little opportunity for public input. This often means that the details where the devil lies, is not able to be seen easily, and non profits that work to protect the near shore, have nearly no time to read and understand impacts. I’ve netted out the recommendations from Sound Action at the end of this Press Release. You can help by reading these, look at the whole document if you wish at the link below, and offer your own comments. Or just email them with your thoughts. Thanks.

State Allows Limited Opportunity For Public Input On Push For Major Changes In Nearshore Protection Code
The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the state Fish and Wildlife Commission are moving forward with plans for major revisions to the only state law specifically protecting critical nearshore habitats and at-risk fish species. The department and commission have allowed for a minimal public comment period and a single, middle-of-summer, late Friday afternoon public hearing in Olympia on August 8.

The state Hydraulic Code is intended to protect fish and fish habitat from in-water development impacts of bulkheads, groins, piers and marinas and was established to ensure no net-loss of the state’s critical nearshore habitats.

The nearshore environment in Puget Sound is where forage fish such as herring, surf smelt and sand lance spawn and where juvenile Chinook salmon grow. The decline in Puget Sound populations of killer whales, sea birds and salmon has been traced to disruptions in the prey-predator balance and loss of spawning and rearing habitats in the nearshore.

The state has proposed a full overhaul of the code guiding the application of this law and recently released approximately 400 pages of documents, including 150 pages of proposed rule language, and provided only a 14-day formal comment period with an additional 15 days for informal comment acceptance. A related 150-page draft Environmental Impact Statement was also released with only 30 days for a public comment period to run concurrently with the rule proposal. The Hydraulic Code revision and the dEIS are found at and , respectively.

“The Hydraulic Code is the state’s primary tool for Puget Sound habitat protection and many of the revisions lead to a weakening, not a strengthening, of protections,” said Amy Carey, executive director of Sound Action. “The documentation and accompanying environmental impact statement are voluminous. Important regulations like these deserve much, much more time for public review and comment than the minimal time period and one hearing opportunity the department has provided.”

Sound Action’s draft comments regarding the code changes are found at “Preliminary Comments on Hydraulic Code Proposed Rulemaking”

Carey added that Sound Action and other conservation groups had requested that WDFW extend the comment period beyond the August 15 deadline another 30 days and to provide additional public hearing opportunities in Puget Sound. The request, according to Carey, was rejected by the department.

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Sound Action: Turning The Tide For Puget Sound


Establish an appropriate definition of protection of fish life:

Establish an appropriate definition of “no net loss”

Amend language to reflect clear requirements for both department and applicant actions.

Add protective provisions for macroalgae.

Add provisions to strengthen forage fish protections.

Add provisions to protect fish life and habitat from the impacts of shoreline armoring.

Establish strong generalized habitat and fish protecting provisions throughout:

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