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[Portal ID #1948]

GMA WAC Update – Agriculture Activities in Critical Areas

Summary of the project

Project Summary  (WAC Update)  October 4, 2017

Background: The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires local jurisdictions to designate and protect critical areas. Current implementing WACs do not adequately provide guidance on regulating agricultural activities where critical areas are present.

Washington State Department of Commerce (Commerce), Growth Management Services completed a GMA rule update process in 2010. During this time, regulations for agricultural activities in critical areas were being litigated. Additionally, the William D. Ruckelshaus Center produced an impact report, which outlined an alternative framework for protecting critical areas in agricultural land, known as the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP).  In 2011, the GMA was amended to include the VSP in RCW 36.70A.700-760. Due to court cases and the Legislature's interest in reviewing the issue of regulating agricultural activities in critical areas, agricultural/critical areas issues were set aside for a future rulemaking effort.

Update Process: To support the rule update, Commerce conducted a review of non-VSP County critical areas ordinances and hearings board and court cases related to agriculture and critical areas. This information was summarized in a report to provide an overview of current critical areas regulations and the legal background for critical areas on agricultural land. The report was used as a supporting document during the rule update process. Additionally, Commerce developed the proposed rules utilizing an advisory committee consisting of a broad range of stakeholders, including counties responsible for adopting critical areas ordinances and other interested state agencies, tribes and organizations. 

A preliminary draft rule was distributed in May, 2017 for review and comment, which resulted in a few changes that were integrated into the final draft rule.  The final draft rule was distributed for formal review and comment in July, 2017, follwed by a public hearing held on August 23, 2017.  No one testified at the hearing and Commerce adopted the final rule on October 2, 2017, filed as WSR 17-20-100 with the Washington State Registar.  

The final rule amending WAC 365-196 and supporting documents can be found under the "Library" tab at the top of htis page.


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